Office Of Governor Dan Malloy

With the 2017 elections coming to an end, Connecticut politicians are turning their attention to the 2018 governor race.

In April, incumbent governor Dannel Malloy announced he would not run for reelection in 2018 after two four-year terms in office. His announcement cleared the Democratic ticket and prompted rumors that Mayor Toni Harp and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman would vie for the Democratic nomination in 2018. But both politicians have announced they are not looking to run.

“I believe that family should come first,” Wyman said in a Nov. 16 statement explaining why she did not seek the governor’s seat.

Still, Wyman expressed gratitude for the “outpouring of support” and noted that she is proud of what she has achieved in Connecticut. Despite not running in 2018, Wyman said she is looking forward to “supporting the next generation.”

Some have speculated that Harp would run for governor, considering that a Political Action Committee formed to support Harp in the summer of 2016. On Nov. 7, Harp was elected for her third two-year term as mayor with over 75 percent of the vote.

“Mayor Harp appreciates the opportunity she has to be mayor and is grateful to have been elected last week to serve a third term,” mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer said. “Mayor Harp has no plan to run for governor at this point in time.”

On Tuesday night, the Connecticut chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, as well as Yale Students for Sensible Drug Policy, are holding the 2018 election’s first gubernatorial debate, which will focus on cannabis policy, social justice and criminal justice reform. Candidates across the political spectrum, such as Democrat Jonathan Harris, Republican Prasad Srinivasan and unaffiliated candidate Micah Welintukonis are slated to attend.

Although Connecticut voters have voted the Democratic candidate into office in the past seven presidential elections, the governor’s office has switched back and forth between the parties. Malloy ended a 16-year Republican governor streak when he took office in 2011. And next year’s race promises to be a bipartisan fight.

Although Harp and Wyman have declined to run, there are more than 20 candidates who have either declared their candidacy or announced they are exploring the possibility of a gubernatorial campaign. The filing date for the election is not until next year, but many candidates have already started campaigning.

Stamford Director of Administration Mike Handler, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, told the News that Connecticut is currently on “physical life support and needs to be rescued.”

Asked whether the national political climate would be a hindrance to the Republican Party, Handler brushed off the idea, noting that residents he has spoken with are more worried about the excessive taxes in Connecticut and how the next administration is going to address state concerns such as unfunded liabilities and debt services.

Although he noted that the media are going to “try their very best” to bring the national political scene into the conversation, he insisted that the problems in Connecticut are “homegrown.”

After all, Handler said, “President Trump is not running for governor in 2018.”

Handler called on college students to pay attention to the state race because they “have a lot more at stake” than they often think they do.

For example, taxing the University’s endowment or property owned by Yale-New Haven Hospital has been considered on the state level — issues that Handler said should raise concern among Yale students.

“If you don’t think that is going to have an impact, you’re mistaken,” he said. “I hope that the national landscape doesn’t disenfranchise young people.”

In an interview with the News, Democratic candidate and current Middletown Mayor Dan Drew spoke about his political strategy, which focuses on the middle class and is designed to create more of a “bottom-up economy.”

“We do everything we can to help the wealthy and we need to have an economy that is focused instead on the middle class,” Drew said.

Although Handler noted that the focus of the election should be on state issues rather than national ones, Drew asserted that it is important for national issues to be at the forefront of the conversation because of the close interactive relationship between the state and federal governments.

Drew also detailed his plans to start a single-payer health system in Connecticut, saying it would make Connecticut “more competitive.” In addition, he noted, the state should legalize and tax marijuana, a long-debated issue in state politics.

The governor of Connecticut is an ex-officio member on the Yale Corporation.

Ashna Gupta | ashna.gupta@yale.edu