A lawyer, businessman, Air Force officer, and aide to former Vice President Al Gore, Merrick Alpert, seems to have been preparing for this moment his entire life.
Alpert, a Democrat who announced his intention to challenge embattled US Senator Chris Dodd Tuesday, said the idea is to go where “you can make an impact.”
“One of the fundamental problems with the political class is that as they work their way up the political ladder their character gets stripped away,” Alpert said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. He said he thinks Democratic voters want someone who is a leader, not a career politician representing them in Washington D.C.
Alpert, a member of the Groton Democratic Town Committee, said he understands that challenging Dodd will be different than the 2006 match-up between Ned Lamont and US Sen. Joseph Lieberman. The Democratic party was upset with Lieberman for his ideology, Alpert said. With Dodd people are upset with his behavior, regarding the Countrywide mortgages, A.I.G. bonuses, and as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.
As chairman of the Senate Banking Committee Dodd was the lifeguard on duty as all these bodies are being pulled out of the water, Alpert said. “Why are we going to put him back up on the lifeguard stand? One would think he’s earned his way out the door,” Alpert said.
Despite record low approval ratings, Democratic party insiders aren’t ready to ditch Dodd just yet. Those who came to Dodd’s defense this week include Democratic State Central Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo and Alpert’s former boss Jonathan Pelto.
DiNardo said she respects the Democratic process, but “strongly’ believes that Senator Dodd should continue to represent the citizens of Connecticut.
“Dodd is a tremendous public servant who has worked tirelessly for Connecticut’s families and has distinguished himself as an expert on healthcare, foreign policy and other pressing issues,” DiNardo said in an emailed statement.
Pelto, whose known Alpert for more than 20 years, was not as gentle as DiNardo with his remarks.
“I’m surprised, even a bit stunned, that my former intern Merrick Alpert is interested in running against Chris Dodd, let alone that he believes he is prepared to serve as Connecticut’s United States Senator,” Pelto said in a statement Monday hammering away at Alpert’s “outsider” campaign before it was even launched.
Pelto suggested that Alpert may be better suited at a run for state Representative or state Senator calling his decision to run for US Senate when he’s never held elected office before “strange.” He said Monday that Alpert has always been “extremely ambitious” and often talked about running for president.
In a brief phone interview Pelto confirmed that he currently has no financial ties to Dodd’s re-election campaign.
Alpert said he appreciates the advice of his former boss, but will stick to challenging Dodd.
“It’s high time somebody step up and lead,” he said.
While he didn’t mention them by name, Alpert said he’s been told by some people that they will endorse his campaign once it’s politically safe to do so. And Alpert, a lifelong Democrat, said he would not run as an independent should he lose the Democratic primary.
“There’s been a D after my name my entire life and that’s not going to change,” Alpert said.
Alpert is Dodd’s first challenger from within his own party, but another Democrat, Roger Pearson of Greenwich, is also considering getting into the race.
Alpert was raised in Colchester and graduated from Trinity College and Georgetown University Law Center. He served as a US Air Force officer in Bosnia between 1996 and 1999. After working as a policy adviser to Oklahoma’s governor in the late 1990s, Alpert transitioned back to the private sector, first working in Oklahoma at Smith Cogeneration International and then in California at Pacific Gas & Electric Energy Services and Enron Energy Services.
He is currently on leave from Latitude 18, a company that develops manufacturing resins, while he runs for the US Senate.