(Updated) The job she’d had her eye on for years was finally in sight—but then Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz abruptly changed course Wednesday and put one foot toward a run for attorney general.
At a press conference at Middletown City Hall Wednesday she made official what had been rumored yesterday. She’s no longer running for governor. She’s running for attorney general instead. But how much she wants the job became an immediate question.
When asked if she would pledge to serve the entire four-year term Bysiewicz danced around the question until she was finally cornered.
“One thing I have learned about politics is never to speculate about the future because one never knows what the future will bring,” Bysiewicz said.
George Jepsen, Bysiewicz’s Democratic opponent in the race, sent out a statement Wednesday renewing his pledge to stay in the job for four years.
“I have pledged, if elected, not to seek higher office in 2012 or 2014 so as to be exclusively committed to the office of Attorney General on behalf of the people of Connecticut,” Jepsen said.
Some have speculated that Bysiewicz is interested in challenging U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman for his seat in 2012.
When asked about the rumors, Bysiewicz said “I have learned in politics to stay very focused on the task at hand.”
“I pledge to work very vigorously to win a primary for attorney general, if there is one. I pledge to work very hard to win the attorney general election. And if I am privileged to be the holder of that office I pledge to work very, very hard to be the best attorney general I can be,” Bysiewicz said.
Her decision to change course was not an easy one. She said the discussion with her family “was about which position would be the best place to serve.” The attorney general’s office is where Bysiewicz believes her talents will be best utilized.
Never believing both the governor’s office and the Office of the Attorney General would be up for grabs at the same time, Bysiewicz said she never thought she would be faced with having to choose between the two offices. She said her husband, David Donaldson, is fond of saying there was “political constipation” in Connecticut for quite some time and unbelievably “these two opportunities presented themselves at the same time.”
“She’s wanted to be governor since she was in fifth-grade,” House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said Tuesday. Not to mention she’s the frontrunner in the polls and fundraising, Cafero added. He said abandoning the race for governor shows a lack of leadership and shows that she cares only about her own political future because the race for attorney general is expected to be much easier than the one for governor.
“Secretary Bysiewicz decision to run for Attorney General is stunning retreat from her initial goal of being Governor, despite her leading in every public poll,” Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy added Wednesday evening. “One can only guess Sec. Bysiewicz saw the colossal budget deficit caused by her fellow Democrats and felt it was wiser to seek other options.”
“Nothing worthwhile is every easy,” Bysiewicz said. “And again I would stress the difficulty of the decision because they both are tremendous opportunities and I look forward to seeing a member of my party win that office and working with them as attorney general.”
Bysiewicz made the decision to switch races early this week.
“I can tell you that my phone started ringing off the hook after Senator Dodd and the attorney general made their decisions,” Bysiewicz said. “I listened to people from all over the state within our party and outside of our party, and ultimately I made the decision in the early part of this week with my family.”
And aside from abandoning the race for governor, in which she was the frontrunner amongst the seven Democratic candidates, Bysiewicz also announced Wednesday that she would no longer be participating in the public campaign finance system.
“I intend to seek private financing,” Bysiewicz said. She said the validity of the current law is being challenged in court and with no legislative remedy in sight, the law is in jeopardy.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is appealing a U.S. District Court judge’s decision that said the public campaign finance system is unconstitutional. Oral arguments in the lawsuit were expected to happen today.
No Republicans have officially declared their intention to run for attorney general, but several have mentioned that they’re interested in the office, including Ross Garber, a partner in the Hartford law firm of Shipman and Goodwin.
On Wednesday afternoon Garber said he would not be running against his sister-in-law.
“I’ve been asked to run as a Republican candidate for Attorney General by people who want Connecticut to have a chief legal officer who will represent the interests of the people aggressively and effectively, but without grandstanding or self-promotion,” Garber said. “I would be honored to serve the public as the Attorney General. But a challenging campaign would be even more difficult on a personal level if my sister-in-law were the eventual Democratic nominee. Therefore, I do not intend to run for Attorney General at this point.”
As for the governor’s race, former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy said Bysiewicz’s announcement doesn’t change anything for his campaign.
“I never vary,“ Malloy said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “It’s been fun to watch all this stuff happen,“ he said, but the game of musical political chairs doesn’t affect his gubernatorial exploratory committee.
“Connecticut is facing monumental problems, and we need to change the culture in Hartford,“ Malloy said in a statement. “We need a Governor who has the vision to put real solutions on the table, and the courage to push them through.”
Ned Lamont, one of the seven Democratic candidates exploring a run for governor, also sent out a statement Wednesday saying, “Susan is a dedicated public servant who I know will bring her passion and experience to the race for Attorney General. I wish her the best in her campaign.”
As far as his own campaign, “I continue to actively explore a run for Governor of Connecticut, and intend to make an official announcement in the coming weeks.”
Sen. Gary LeBeau, Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi, Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman, and Juan Figueroa, former president of the Universal Health Care Foundation, are all exploring gubernatorial bids on the Democratic side. Former House Speaker James Amann is the only declared Democratic gubernatorial candidate.
Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele and Greenwich businessman Tom Foley are candidates for governor on the Republican side.