With two years remaining before the 2006 Connecticut gubernatorial election, the race for the Democratic Party ticket is already heating up.

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., who announced his candidacy this past spring, is currently being opposed by two candidates, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz ’83 and Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy. Connecticut’s popular attorney general, Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73, said he is still considering joining the race, and a recent New York Times article fueled speculation that U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd is considering a run for governor as well.

Connecticut Democrats are hoping to capitalize on Republican Gov. John Rowland’s resignation in June after a corruption scandal. Polls indicated that current Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell, the Republican former lieutenant governor who took over upon Rowland’s resignation, was not widely known in the state prior to assuming her current post, but Rell currently enjoys high public approval ratings.

DeStefano said his campaign has seen more grass-roots interest since the Nov. 2 presidential election, with many local supporters of Sen. John Kerry ’66 shifting their attention to the gubernatorial race.

Though Connecticut is a blue state — both its senators are Democrats who usually win re-election by wide margins, and Kerry easily carried the state in this year’s presidential election — the state has not seen a Democratic governor since 1991.

After a Nov. 6 New York Times article cited sources close to Dodd saying he was considering running for governor due to frustration with the Republican-controlled Senate, Dodd’s office said in a statement that “Senator Dodd has said repeatedly that he has no plans to run for governor. Nothing has changed.” But if Dodd were to enter the race, his popularity in the state — evidenced by his reception of 66 percent of the vote in this election — indicates he would be a strong candidate.

“Dodd’s the only one I’ll say this for, but if Dodd runs I’ll write a check to his campaign,” DeStefano said.

If Dodd became governor, he would be able to appoint his successor in the Senate.

Blumenthal said he expects to make a decision about running for governor in the near future.

“The two primary factors will be what is best for my family and where I can best serve the people of Connecticut,” Blumenthal said. “I think the chances are good that a Democrat will be elected. The people seem to want a change, and they’re ready for it.”

Malloy’s campaign has suffered recently from an ongoing investigation into whether contractors who worked on the Stamford mayor’s home were favored in the awarding of city contracts.

DeStefano’s campaign has been running numerous fundraisers and meetings to rally supporters across the state. The mayor will be addressing the Sherman and New Milford town committees tonight.

Statistics released by the DeStefano campaign indicate the mayor raised more than Bysiewicz and Malloy in both the second and third quarters of this year, giving him an overall lead in cash on hand at the end of the third quarter. Since then, the campaign has raised a further $300,000 in campaign pledges in the fourth quarter.

DeStefano said New Haven’s economic development during his tenure as mayor will be a key asset for his campaign. During a time when 40,000 jobs have been lost statewide, New Haven has actually gained jobs, DeStefano campaign manager Shonu Gandhi ’03 said.

“I think around the state, people recognize that New Haven is a dramatic success story at a time when urban centers in Connecticut have been faltering,” Gandhi said. “The fact is that he has a record of turning around an economy.”

A key issue in the election is likely to be promoting economic development in a state that seems to be lagging behind national growth rates, DeStefano said.

“A lot of people feel very squeezed with regard to the job market, health benefits and being unable to make tuition for their kids,” DeStefano said. “The principal issues that I perceive have a lot to do with clear blueprint for economic growth, plans for developing transportation infrastructure in the state, and providing pre-kindergarten education and access to higher education.”