Town leaders endorse DeStefano for gov.

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. has secured the endorsements of five Democratic town leaders from around Connecticut — many of whom had previously supported other Democratic gubernatorial candidates — thereby strengthening his campaign against other Democratic contenders and the popular incumbent Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who announced on Friday that she will run for re-election next November.

Following Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73’s decision last week not to seek the Democratic nomination, DeStefano’s campaign received endorsements from the Democratic mayors of Ansonia, Derby, East Hartford and Westbrook, as well as the First Selectwoman of Bethany. DeStefano, who is considered the front-runner against Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, had previously been endorsed by U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro as well as 20 unions representing 50,000 workers, including the state’s largest police union, said Shonu Gandhi ’03, DeStefano’s campaign manager. Still, a July 27 poll conducted by researchers at Quinnipiac University concluded that Rell had a 79 percent approval rating.

Gandhi said the recent endorsements of DeStefano indicate the growing momentum of the mayor’s gubernatorial campaign.

“It demonstrates that many Democrats around the state are realizing that John DeStefano is the best person to lead the state in a new direction,” Gandhi said. “There are definitely mayors in every congressional district supporting him.”

Gandhi said the two mayors not from New Haven County who recently endorsed DeStefano — Mayor Tim Larson from East Hartford and Mayor Tony Palermo from Westbrook — will be particularly effective in reaching out to voters in other regions of the state. Larson is the brother of John B. Larson, the U.S. congressman from the First Congressional District, which includes East Hartford. Palermo’s coastal city of Westbrook is an important city in the southeastern portion of the state, Gandhi said.

To further promote DeStefano’s bid for governor, 30-second advertisements focusing on the mayor’s charges of a lack of statewide job growth under Rell will begin to appear on television tomorrow.

DeStefano said in a statement issued Friday that Rell, who served as Rowland’s lieutenant governor, has allowed economic growth in Connecticut to lag during the 11 years she has served in Hartford.

“Jodi Rell offers no real change, just more of the same,” DeStefano said in his statement. “Connecticut families deserve new leadership with new vision and new ideas.”

But during her speech at the state Capitol on Friday, Rell described what she said were her accomplishments during her tenure as governor, which included a $1.3 billion transportation package intended to reduce gridlock and improve train service in Fairfield County and her successful efforts to keep Groton’s submarine base off the list of military base closures. 31,000 jobs at the base were saved as a result.

Rell’s campaign for governor will be her first. She was appointed to the governorship 15 months ago, after her predecessor, John G. Rowland, resigned on charges of corruption. Rowland pled guilty and is currently serving a 366-day prison sentence. Rell’s opponents have been trying to tie her to Rowland’s legacy, but she said Friday that she is “a different kind of governor.”

“I truly believe in doing what’s right for Connecticut — in doing what is right for the right reasons,” Rell said. “It’s not a fancy slogan. It’s who I am. It’s who I have always been. You’ve just come to know me a little better over the last 15 months.”

Although she did not begin her official campaign until the end of last week, Rell leads the Democrats in the polls by a wide margin. According to a July 27 poll conducted by Quinnipiac University, 61 percent of all voters would vote for Rell if she were to run against DeStefano, while 22 percent of voters would vote for DeStefano. If up against Malloy, Rell would garner 63 percent of the vote, compared with Malloy’s 18 percent.

DeStefano’s impact on New Haven during his terms as mayor influenced the decisions of many of the mayors who chose to support his campaign.

Although Mayor James Dellavolpe of Ansonia said his first choice for governor had been Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz ’83, who withdrew from the election in September, he said he endorsed DeStefano because he had witnessed his effectiveness in governing New Haven.

“My first choice was Susan, but once she got out [of the race] I went with Mayor DeStefano because I agreed with the platform,” said Dellavolpe, who has been in office six years. “Obviously we’re closer to New Haven than we are to Stamford … I see what John’s done, and I’m impressed.”

Dellavolpe said he has “faith” in DeLauro’s choice to endorse DeStefano.

Bethany First Selectwoman Derrylyn Gorski also said DeStefano had not been her first choice among the Democratic candidates — she said she waited until Blumenthal decided not to run before she endorsed DeStefano. Still, she said she trusts DeStefano’s ability to govern because of his successes in improving New Haven.

“If you look at the city of New Haven in the 10 years that John has been mayor, it’s been a complete turnaround,” Gorski said. “It would be beneficial for our region if John DeStefano were to be governor.”

While Rell is only now able to begin fundraising now that she has declared her candidacy, DeStefano had raised $2.6 million and Malloy had raised $1.7 million as of Sept. 30, when the most recent reporting period ended.

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