When he announced his bid for lieutenant governor in November 2009, state Healthcare Advocate Kevin Lembo was the only candidate vying for the position. But over the past two weeks with the nominating convention approaching, he was passed over by the two top Democrats contending for governor.
Today, Lembo will announce he’s switching gears and will run for state comptroller instead.
Click here to watch the video of Lembo’s announcement.
Lembo’s announcement comes on the heels of state Comptroller Nancy Wyman’s announcement that she is joining Dannel Malloy’s gubernatorial campaign, opening up the race for state Comptroller for the first time in 16 years.
“This is a position I know,” Lembo said. “And I always said Nancy is the only candidate I would step aside for.”
Lembo, who tried to change the conversation about how the office of lieutenant governor is perceived, said he’s not disappointed about being passed over for the No. 2 spot.
“I’m not. Maybe I’m not because Nancy has been chosen,” Lembo said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “Primaries are about ideas. It’s about bringing your vision and credentials to the delegates and the voters.”
Asked if he is concerned about the perception that he is campaign hopping, Lembo answered in the negative: “While I’m changing races today, it’s a logical leap.”
Before being appointed state Healthcare Advocate in 2004, Lembo worked for six years as an assistant state Comptroller.
“I won’t need any on-the-job training,” Lembo said.
He said that while no two people run an office the same way, he would seek to continue Wyman’s tradition of being a “straight shooter.”
As the state’s chief fiscal officer he said he would seek to bring greater accountability and transparency to the office that oversees health and retirement benefits for 200,000 state employees and retirees, and which provides a monthly analysis of the state’s finances.
On transparency, Lembo said he wants the public to see more of the information that the office handles. He said a private nonprofit organization should not be responsible for disseminating the state’s financial information to the public. Lembo was referring to the Yankee Institute’s new website, ctsunlight.org, which provides the state’s salary and pension data in a searchable format.
He said there should also be more information available about each of the line items in the budget so the spending can be tracked and linked to performance and outcomes.
“Benchmarking inspires us all to do better,” Lembo said.
The comptroller’s office also is responsible for negotiating the $1.2 billion in health care contracts the state provides for its employees and ensures state contractors’ bills are paid in a timely manner. The Comptroller is also the state’s bookkeeper, payroll officer and independent fiscal analyst.
As Lembo prepares to switch campaigns, he was told the two endorsements he received from the Victory Fund and the Connecticut Citizens Action Group won’t be going along with him.
He said he will seek the endorsements again.
Meanwhile, Lembo said he will continue to use his trademark campaign flier—which offers cutout “nerd” glasses—to get his message to delegates.
Lembo said Wednesday that he will transition his exploratory committee over to a campaign committee. The state’s public financing laws will allow him to take with him the more than $30,000 he has raised in his race for lieutenant governor.
In addition to Lembo, Rep. Tom Reynolds of Ledyard will seek the Democratic nomination for state comptroller and Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura is considering leaving the lieutenant governor’s race for the comptroller’s race, too. There’s reports this morning also that say former Lt. Gov. Kevin Sullivan of West Hartford may also be interested in the job.
In April 2009 Reynolds formed an exploratory committee based on the assumption that Wyman would seek higher office, but stepped aside when Wyman announced her re-election bid in January. He said Monday that he will get back into the race for comptroller if Wyman wasn’t running.
Reynolds, who has written a white paper on the state’s fiscal crisis, will formally announce his candidacy Thursday in Norwich.
Reynolds has said that the comptroller’s office is the only one for which he plans to run.