With Gov. Dannel Malloy out of the running in the 2018 Connecticut Governor’s race, a crowded field of Democratic hopefuls has already begun to emerge.
Since Malloy announced last week that he would not seek a third term, a number of Democrats have thrown their hats into the ring, and several have begun the process of creating exploratory committees. The four candidates who have expressed interest in running for the governorship range in political experience, though more state politicians are expected to announce their candidacy at some point. While Democratic President Pro Tempore Martin Looney said Malloy’s announcement does not affect Democrats’ chances of retaining the governorship in 2018, it does mean an extended campaign season.
“I think that it does give candidates more time to maneuver because a lot of people were waiting to see what the Governor said the decision was going to be,” Looney said. “So it does mean I think that the campaign gets started in earnest perhaps earlier than it might have otherwise.”
Middletown Mayor Dan Drew became the first Democrat to enter the race when he launched an exploratory campaign in January. Two months later, former business woman and model Jacey Wyatt registered her candidacy, becoming the first transgender candidate to run for governor in Connecticut.
This week, Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris resigned in order to form an exploratory campaign of his own. And in a video posted to YouTube on Tuesday, former federal prosecutor Chris Mattei announced his own candidacy.
Many have also speculated that State Comptroller Kevin Lembo will follow suit in the coming weeks.
Still, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and Attorney General George Jepsen stand above the rest of the field, according to Looney.
“I think that Lt. Gov. Wyman has sort of a first option to consider it, and Attorney General Jepsen — they would be the first-tier candidates, and the other announced candidates today could be more of a second tier,” he said.
The next step, Looney said, is for the 71-year-old Wyman to decide whether or not she will enter the race. Looney also raised the possibility that Malloy could resign before the 2018 election, making Wyman the incumbent, but added that he is unsure how likely that is to happen.
Both Harris and Lembo have said they would defer to Wyman were she to run.
“If she runs, I will not run for governor,” Harris told the CT Mirror. “I will be there. I will support her. I will help her.”
Rep. Elizabeth Esty LAW ’85, D-Conn., and Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., have both said they will seek reelection rather than running for governor.
On the Republican side, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti and state Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, R-Glastonbury, have already declared their candidacy. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker, Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, attorney Peter Lumaj and businessman Steve Obsitnik, meanwhile, have assembled exploratory committees. On Wednesday, two-time gubernatorial candidate and fervent Trump supporter Joe Visconti joined the swelling ranks of Republican hopefuls.
Chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party J.R. Romano said, given Malloy’s 29 percent approval rating, Republicans expected him to not seek a third term.
Though the Democratic field is already looking crowded, Romano said it does not matter which Democrat ultimately emerges. Whomever the opponent is, he said, Republicans must drive home a pro-growth message and hold the Democratic Party accountable for the state’s recent economic struggles.
“I think it’s the Democrats’ attempt to rebrand themselves,” he said. “In their minds, Dan Malloy’s the problem, not [their] brand. And ultimately I don’t think that’s the case.”
In 2014, Malloy defeated Republican candidate John Foley by just over 28,000 votes to secure his second term as governor.