Christine Stuart photo
James Amann (Christine Stuart photo )

(Updated w/video) Former Speaker of the House James Amann knows the road to the governor’s mansion won’t be easy.

The race for the governor’s office is a marathon not a sprint, Amann’s campaign spokesman said in welcoming the more than 400 supporters, family members, and friends to the Klein Memorial Auditorium in Bridgeport where Amann officially announced his candidacy for governor Wednesday night.

Amann’s marathon may be longer than most of the Democratic candidates beginning to emerge since this will be his first campaign for statewide office.

And a Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this week showed Amann trailing far behind his Democratic opponents in the 2010 campaign for governor. Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz is the early favorite in a Democratic primary with 44 percent, followed by Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy with 12 percent and Amann with 4 percent.

But in an interview following his announcement Amann said he wasn’t worried.

“It’s going to be a challenge no doubt about it,” he said. 

He said over the next two months he has 20 or 30 meetings scheduled with Democratic Town Committee’s all over the state as he looks to shore up the Democratic nomination.

Amann, who aligns himself more with the center of the political spectrum, said most of the governor’s who have been elected are centrists. “I think that’s what Connecticut really is,” he said.

“I really believe in my heart that I’m the best candidate,” Amann said. He thinks Bysiewicz will draw a certain a certain segment of the Democratic Party, Malloy might reach over and get more of a diverse crowd, but “between all three of us, I’ll get the largest crowd between Democrats, unaffiliated, and Republicans,” Amann said. 

When asked if he would consider running as an independent if he didn’t get the Democratic nomination, Amann said “you would love me to say that right now.”

“I want to be a Democratic nominee,” Amann said.

Connecticut has not elected a Democratic governor since William O’Neill left office in 1990.

Christine Stuart photo
Ed Anderson of New Haven (Christine Stuart photo )

Amann has been criticized by some in his party for continuing to support US Sen. Joseph Lieberman, even after he lost the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont in 2006.

Standing outside the Klein Memorial Auditorium, Jon Kantrowiz of Fairfield held a sign saying “The Lamont Majority Says Hello.”  Next to him was standing Ed Anderson of New Haven holding a sign saying “Amann 2010 D.O.A.”

“Susie B is more electable and Dan is just fine,” Anderson said.

He said he finally understands the problem with public campaign financing, it means he will have to listen to Amann for the next year and a half.

The speech

“I come to Bridgeport to tell you I’ve done enough exploring,” Amann said. “I’ve come to Bridgeport to tell you I want to be the next governor of the state of Connecticut.”

The audience, which included several lawmakers and Bridgeport’s Mayor Bill Finch, gave him a standing ovation as he finished those lines.

During his approximately 20-minute address Amann promised bold leadership and even took a swing at Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

“Being a leader is not about having press conferences,” Amann said. “We need a leader that’s going to change the direction of this rudderless ship.”

“There’s no magic solution,” Amann said. “The problems we face are monumental and they won’t be solved overnight.”

Amann was introduced Wednesday evening by Maggie Casciato, an autism activist, John Hollis, former president of the Teamsters, and Milford Fire Chief Louis LaVecchia.