Christine Stuart photo

Democratic Speaker of the House James Amann of Milford and his supporters weren’t bothered by the hearse parked in front of Milford City Hall on Thursday. Nor were they bothered by the four protestors who came with it to Amann’s announcement that he is exploring a run for the governor’s office.

Speaking for the protestors, New Haven activist Ed Anderson explained their presence to a curious Amann supporter by saying, “he’s not getting the Democratic nomination … He stabbed us in the back.”

Anderson, who organized the protest with Branford resident Keith Crane, said Mr. Amann failed to support Ned Lamont after he won the Democratic primary against U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman in 2006, and as such should not be asking for support from Democrats for a gubernatorial campaign.

“Now he can come to the party and ask for party loyalty?” Crane asked sarcastically. Aside from the question about Mr. Amann’s loyalty, many Connecticut Democrats believe it’s Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s turn to run for governor, should he decide to do so.

Later, surrounded by a standing room only crowd of family, friends, and more than 20 state legislators, Mr. Amann said he wasn’t bothered by the protestors. During his 20-minute speech highlighting his 25 years in politics, Mr. Amann even acknowledged the protestors’ presence by saying, “I hope they all join the team.”

When asked if Mr. Amann’s announcement to explore a campaign for governor in 2010 politicized the legislative session, which starts next week, Crane said, “of course it does.” However, many of the legislators that attended Thursday’s event didn’t agree.

“It’s a good move for Jim,” Rep. Toni Walker of New Haven said, adding that everyone has a different way of approaching higher office and Mr. Amann has decided to start working toward it now.

Rep. Michael Lawlor of East Haven said Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell has already announced an exploratory committee for a 2010 campaign. He said he’s supportive of Mr. Amann’s “right to push his political career and agenda as much as he wants.”

“Jim is one of the nicest guys I know,” Lawlor added.

Christine Stuart photo

Asked if some of the legislators attended the event because they were afraid they would lose their committee assignments if they hadn’t, Rep. Chris Caruso of Bridgeport said that’s not how Mr. Amann operates. Caruso said Mr. Amann would never use his leadership to be vindictive. Caruso said he wouldn’t be in Milford supporting Mr. Amann if that was the case.

After all his supporters left, Mr. Amann himself said Thursday’s announcement won’t interfere with the legislative session. He said the first thing on his agenda is to take care of his caucus. He said that as Speaker of the House, he won’t be playing any games. In fact, he said he’s excited about the new campaign finance rules because they help “us get back to our grassroots.”

While he didn’t set out a specific agenda Thursday, Mr. Amann did do a little posturing toward the end of his speech when he unleashed a criticism of Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

“We will not be strong or compete in a global economy by appointing task forces or writing letters. We cannot make the lives of our citizens better by issuing daily press releases or holding press conferences. That doesn’t make change, it only makes newspapers,” Mr. Amann said.