(Updated 6.9.10) After flip flopping between half of the state’s six constitutional offices, Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura made his intention to primary Kevin Lembo for state Comptroller official Tuesday.
Jacqueline Kozin, Lembo’s campaign manager, came out swinging at news of Jarjura’s announcement.
Kozin criticized Jarjura’s decision to hire former Gov. John G. Rowland as the city‘s development czar and wasn’t shy about mentioning his membership on the board of the Family Institute of Connecticut.
“We welcome the opportunity to debate the issues facing Connecticut and Kevin’s ability to help craft solutions, as well as Mr. Jarjura’s lengthy public record as a member of the legislative advisory committee of ultra-conservative Family Institute of Connecticut, as a legislator opposing issues like a woman’s right to choose, and his decision as a four-term Mayor to hire disgraced former Governor John Rowland,” Kozin said in a press release.
Rowland was forced to resign in the midst of a corruption trial and eventually served several months in jail before returning to Connecticut.
The Family Institute of Connecticut took the lead in fighting against the legislature’s push toward gay marriage, which was finally decided by the Supreme Court. It also has been outspoken about the rights of the Catholic Church and fought off attempts by the legislature to modify how the church handles its finances.
Both associations could prove problematic for Jarjura in a Democratic primary and at the very least it makes the contrast between the two men stark.
Lembo, the state healthcare advocate and former assistant state comptroller, is the first openly gay candidate to run for one of the state’s six constitutional offices.
On Wednesday at a bill signing in Waterbury, Jarjura called Kozin’s comments “bizarre.”
He said he’s running for comptroller to deal with financial issues, not social issues.
“I don’t want to get into all that,” Jarjura said.
Jarjura’s press release painted Lembo as an insider.
“On Aug. 10, the voters of Connecticut can choose between an entrenched political insider or Mike Jarjura who will bring experience and proven leadership ability to help restore financial stability to the Connecticut economy,” Jarjura’s campaign staff said in a statement.
Jarjura took the helm in Waterbury at its lowest point in 2002 when the city was under state oversight, saddled with a crippling “junk” bond rating and facing $1 billion in unfunded liabilities.
The press release went on to tout Jarjura’s ability to take Waterbury’s bond rating from junk status to an A rating.
“The fiscal and structural problems that Connecticut faces are nearly identical to what I faced when first assuming the Mayor’s office in Waterbury,” said Jarjura in a May press release. “I look forward to the opportunity to work on righting Connecticut’s financial ship and bringing the same best practices to Hartford that served taxpayers in Waterbury so well.”
Jarjura, who received enough support at the Democratic convention in May to primary, said he wants to return “financial sanity to state government.”
“While I may not have been the pick of the Democratic party bosses, I have won 16 elections and primaries over the last 20 years, including an historic write-in victory in 2005,” Jarjura said.
Kozin argued that Connecticut needs experience.
“With Connecticut facing the prospect of more than a $3 billion hole in the state budget next year, Kevin Lembo has the experience as a former Assistant Comptroller and now as Healthcare Advocate, to need no on the job training for State Comptroller,” Kozin said.
Rep. Tom Reynolds of Ledyard also received enough support at the convention to force a primary, but bowed out a few days after the convention.
Depending on what happens in the primary, Lembo or Jarjura will end up running against Jack Orchulli the only Republican candidate running for state comptroller.