The man best known for his support of electronic tolls on Connecticut’s highways and his quirky campaign videos featuring a puppet called it quits Thursday and offered his support to Ned Lamont, one of the two millionaires in the race.
A staunch supporter of public campaign finance, Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi dropped out of the governor’s race and endorsed the one Democratic opponent who has opted out of the public finance system.
In a phone interview after his announcement in Ridgefield, Marconi said his endorsement of Lamont was not a reversal of his campaign’s position, which was the subject of at least two youtube videos.
“If we don’t save our public campaign finance law that’s where we’re headed. Government by and for the special interests and millionaires. I say go public or don’t go at all,” Marconi said in this campaign video .
The system was supposed to level the playing field and allow those without personal wealth to run for state office, but Marconi believes the legislature neglected to address the problems before it adjourned last week. Lawmakers have said they will use the Second Circuit Court’s decision, when it’s released, as a roadmap for revising the system.
“Change is only going to be made to the campaign finance system if a Democrat is elected governor,” Marconi said. “I would not be supporting Ned Lamont if he was not someone supporting the campaign finance system.”
Marconi, who raised about $150,000, said there needs to be new limits established because “we all know it takes more than $3 million to run in the general election.”
“I think it’s going to be the most important thing for reform to get a Democrat elected,” he added.
Marconi said he thinks Lamont has the best shot at winning the election.
“Ned has decades of experience building a business from the ground up and creating hundreds of jobs here in Connecticut, while Mary has a proven record of improving education and fixing transportation as the First Selectman of Simsbury,” Marconi said in a prepared statement after his announcement Thursday. “I am confident that Ned and Mary understand that Connecticut is not just a state, but a great community of cities and towns where people live and work and build their lives.”
Roy Occhiogrosso, a consultant with Dannel Malloy’s campaign, said “the guy blowing up the campaign finance system is not the guy who is going to save it.” He said the best way to save campaign finance is to do what Malloy is doing by committing to it.
Marconi, who had little name recognition and even less money, announced his decision to drop out of the race about a week before the Democratic nominating convention.
“I’m happy with my decision,” Marconi said adding that he thinks he raised some issues, regarding the state’s revenue and electronic tolls, that may not have been raised if he wasn’t in the race.
Marconi is the third Democratic candidate to drop out of the race, leaving behind Lamont and Malloy. First Selectwoman Mary Glassman, who had been running for governor, joined Lamont’s campaign and is now running for lieutenant governor.
Juan Figueroa, who had envisioned petitioning his way onto the primary ballot, dropped out last week with a message about the public financing system. He has yet to endorse any of the remaining candidates.
Figueroa said his experience convinced him that the state’s public financing law should be modified to make it easier for candidates to qualify for matching money. Right now Malloy is the only candidate that was able to raise $250,000 in small contributions to receive the $1.25 million state grant for the primary. And that took years of work, Figueroa said.
The law was aimed at producing more competition in elections beyond the regular ring of political insiders, but the leading Democratic candidate for governor and the leading Republican candidates for governor and U.S. senator are all millionaires.
With just two men vying for the Democratic nomination it’s more than likely the party will be headed for an August primary as they try to return a Democrat to the governor’s office for the first time since 1991.
Five Republicans are still in the running for their party’s nomination, including Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Thomas Foley, R. Nelson Griebel, and Christopher Duffy Acevedo, of Branford.
Chester First Selectman Tom Marsh, who was running as a Republican, has decided to continue his race as an independent.