Christine Stuart photo
Ned Lamont (Christine Stuart photo)

Since he announced Wednesday that he would be exploring a campaign for governor, opponents and political insiders have speculated about whether Ned Lamont, the wealthy Greenwich businessman, would participate in the state’s public campaign finance system.

“I think the answer to that is simple,” Lamont said Thursday following a speech to students and faculty at Central Connecticut State University.

“I’m in the exploratory committee and I’m going to stay within the rules of the exploratory committee,” Lamont said. “I’ll decide what I’ll do next once and if I get into the candidate committee.”

“I think everything depends on what happens when I go to the candidate committee,” Lamont said when asked if he had ruled out spending his own money on his campaign like he did in 2006 when he challenged U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman.

Democratic consultant Jonathan Pelto said Lamont entering the race—which already includes former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy, Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi, former Speaker of the House James Amann, and state Sen. Gary LeBeau—“does impact the dynamics of the campaign.”

However for Pelto the bottom line “is that Democrats must focus on selecting a candidate who can not only win but has the courage to govern.”

“Lamont can help move that debate forward but if he fails to participate in Connecticut’s historic and landmark campaign finance system, I think he will immediately undermine his credibility and lose any progressive base he retains,” Pelto said.

At the moment, while he is in the exploratory phase of the campaign, Lamont said he is “going to accept nothing but small money donations.”

Bysiewicz, who is also exploring a run for governor, said she thinks the public campaign finance system has “strengthened the process.”

“The decision to run shouldn’t be tied to the size of your wallet or purse,” Bysiewicz said Thursday in a phone interview. She said she hopes Lamont will honor the public campaign finance system and participate in it, since the whole point of it was to “level the playing field.”

The old system which favored lobbyists and special interests was corrosive Bysiewicz said.

Bysiewicz said she’s looking forward to using the new public campaign system, under which she will be required to raise $250,000 in small donations before receiving $1 million for the primary.

The other four candidates on the Democratic side have also said they planned on participating in the new system.

Comparing 2006 to 2010

As in his 2006 race for the U.S. Senate Lamont said he’s coming at this race, again, as an “outsider.” Somebody who hasn’t held elected office and hasn’t spent their life in politics.

“I’m coming at this as an outsider. I’m coming at this as somebody who has started a business. I’m coming at this as somebody who I think will bring a fresh perspective and a fresh energy to some of the old issues that confront Hartford,” Lamont said Thursday.

Interestingly enough, Lamont said he called Lieberman to let him know about his plans to explore a run for governor. He said he left a message, but Lieberman hasn’t called back.

Who else did Lamont call?

Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell who hasn’t said yet whether she will seek re-election or not. Lamont said she was gracious.