Plenty of people who exercise at Payne Whitney Gymnasium train for marathons. But one man who frequently works out on the fourth floor is preparing for a very different type of race.

John Nussbaum, a self-employed businessman from New Haven, is attempting to earn a place on the ballot for the Democratic primary this September so he can have a chance to run for governor of Connecticut.

The co-chairman of the state Democratic Party’s Finance Committee from 1999-2000, Nussbaum was also co-chairman of the Democratic Youth Leadership Council. For over 15 years, he was a successful commercial real estate broker and investor. In 1998, Nussbaum was one of four Democratic gubernatorial candidates who stepped aside to support Barbara Kennelly’s campaign.

Nussbaum said he decided to run for governor this year because he was “fed up with the lack of leadership in this state.” He added that society cannot improve if its leaders do not lead the way.

“In Connecticut, the absence of leadership in our most influential government office has resulted in an endless list of missed opportunities to create jobs and a failure to make progress on the issues central to our quality of life,” he said in a statement.

Nussbaum said his top three priorities include education, transportation and the environment.

“I want to make Connecticut’s educational system number one in the country,” he said. “Number one means having the highest standards and achievement.”

Nussbaum added that he and his campaign team have had success in running a campaign.

“Our financial situation is great,” he said. “We have $175,000 cash in hand. We’ve been very competitive in that arena.”

But before having the opportunity to face Republican incumbent Gov. John G. Rowland, Nussbaum must compete for the nomination in his own party, where he will face former state Comptroller Bill Curry and state Senate Majority Leader George Jepsen.

Roy Occhiogross, Curry’s campaign manager, said it is important for the Democratic Party to support a single candidate quickly so the party is not divided.

“Bill Curry believes that the Democratic Party’s best chance to win back the governorship depends on how quickly we can coalesce behind a nominee,” he said. “There is [an incumbent] Republican governor seeking reelection, and he will have all the cash he can ring out of the system — so we need to coalesce behind a candidate quickly because we need months, not weeks, to debate him.”

But Nussbaum said any Democratic coalition does not necessarily have to support Curry or Jepsen.

“There is no reason why I can’t be that candidate,” Nussbaum said.

Rowland’s office declined to comment on the gubernatorial election.

Samantha Jay ’04, the president of the Yale College Democrats, said the student organization has not yet decided which gubernatorial candidate to support, but she said they hope to make an endorsement by the end of the semester.

“John Nussbaum hasn’t contacted us about anything, whereas Curry and Jepsen have,” she said. “While we haven’t endorsed any candidate yet, I’ve been very impressed with Curry’s effort to be involved in our organization. Of course, we’d love to give all candidates that chance.”

Nussbaum encouraged Yale students participate in the election and his campaign:

“This is a grass-roots campaign. We encourage Yale students to get involved because this is a chance for them to get some real experience.”