News analysis: State Republicans wait on Rell for candidacy plans

At present, the 2010 Connecticut gubernatorial candidates are all Democrats because, a policy adviser to Gov. M. Jodi Rell says, potential Republican candidates await an announcement by their popular leader on whether she will seek re-election.

At least three Democrats — Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz ’83, former speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives James Amann and Stamford four-term Mayor Dan Malloy — have said they will run for governor in 2010. Rell, who holds a 75 percent approval rating, has not yet announced whether she will seek another term in office.

But Kenneth Dautrich, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Connecticut and a policy adviser to Rell, suggested that potential Republican candidates are waiting for Rell to announce her intentions before they act.

A Quinnipiac University poll last month showed Connecticut residents greatly prefer Rell in hypothetical match-ups against each Democratic candidate, as the governor led all of them by at least 21 percentage points. And, because she is the most popular Republican in Connecticut, fielding votes for the Republican party from those who vote down ticket on the ballot, Dautrich suggested the delay in Rell’s decision may hurt potential candidates in her own party who will not announce until Rell’s intentions are known for fear of running a futile campaign.

In an interview Tuesday, Dautrich said that the 62-year-old governor’s tremendous popularity combined with support for her handling of the economic crisis are major advantages if she were to choose to run again.

“She is a very popular governor — and that is in the midst of the state budget crisis,” Dautrich said. “Even in tough times, the vast majority of people in the state have a lot of faith in her job performance, which is a huge electoral asset since job performance in incumbents usually translates to votes in elections.”

But for all her advantages, Rell has stated that she has yet to decide on whether to seek a second elected term in office. Rell took office in 2004 after then-Gov. John Rowland resigned amid corruption allegations, thrusting Rell, his lieutenant governor since 1995, into office.

Rich Harris, a spokesman for Rell, said in a telephone interview last week that Rell would hold off on a decision until after the state takes steps to mitigate the $8-billion budget deficit over the coming fiscal years.

“Right now, Governor Rell is focused on working with the General Assembly to solve the state budget crisis,” he said.

Despite Rell’s silence, Bysiewicz and Malloy both said Rell’s decision whether to run for reelection is of no concern to them. (Amann could not be reached for comment this week.)

“Whether or not she runs doesn’t factor into my decision at all,” Malloy said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

And Bysiewicz, the frontrunner among Democrats in the Quinnipiac poll, said her focus right now is on winning the Democratic nomination. “I think that people are focused on this race particularly amongst the Democratic Party since we now have some good information on who is in and who is out,” she said. “The picture on our side of the aisle has become clearer. My focus right now is trying to win the Democratic nomination.”

In 2006, Rell defeated New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. by 27 percentage points to win election.

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