Ned Lamont is running for the Democratic nomination for governor. You might not know it from his latest campaign ad.
The ad references Lamont’s “independence” three times. Not once does it mention that he’s a Democrat.
“He took on the political establishment, Republicans and Democrats alike, to bring about real change,” a narrator says in the opening of the commercial. “Ned Lamont – now he’s running for governor because we need an independent voice to shake up things in Hartford and do what’s needed to help families, create jobs, and get our economy back on track.”
Jonathan Pelto, a political consultant and former Mansfield lawmaker who ran the last successful Democratic gubernatorial campaign in 1986, called Lamont’s strategy “risky.”
“Lamont’s strategy is a good one for the general election, but is a risky strategy for a Democratic primary,” Pelto said Tuesday.
Democratic primary voters are town committee members, state employees or families of state employees, and members of particular interest groups like pro-choice activists, Pelto said.
Lamont will square off against former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy in the Aug. 10 primary.
In what has been called the “Year of the Outsider,” Lamont’s commercial aptly titled: “Independent,“ seems to be aimed at voters disgusted with the political establishment.
It’s a strategy that former state Comptroller and two time gubernatorial nominee Bill Curry seems to think will resonate with voters, including Democrats.
“It’s a smart ad,” Curry said. “He’s doing the insider, outsider thing with Malloy.”
“What you want to do is go up to Hartford and be your own man, be independent, with no strings attached,” Lamont said in the commercial released this weekend. “And that’s one of the promises I’m making to the people of Connecticut, you know. I’m going to be nobody’s man but yours.”
The last line is borrowed from former Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr., the Republican turned Independent, who is supporting Lamont in his quest for the governor’s office.
Curry called it one of the best political slogans in Connecticut’s history.
The worst thing that could have happened to Lamont would have been receiving the party’s endorsement at the state convention, Curry said. “Do not overestimate party loyalty.” Curry lost the Democratic endorsement for governor in 1994, then won the nomination in a primary, with a similar independence theme.
Pelto disagreed with Curry’s analysis. He said of the close to 750,000 Democratic voters about 35 percent will turnout at the polls on Aug. 10. The voters who show up will be the party insiders, Pelto said.
Curry said Democrats are just as upset with the party establishment as their Republican counterparts, many of whom have joined the Tea Party movement.
“The ’I’m the one who can win the general election’ may work with non-primary voters, but it won’t work with Democratic primary voters,” Pelto said.
However, Curry said when he was ran for the party gubernatorial nomination against then House Speaker John Larson in that 1994 race, or again when he beat former Democratic Party Chairman George Jepsen in the 2002 Democratic gubernatorial primary, the fact that he wasn’t in the legislature helped him gain support from town committee members.
Asked about the commercial, Lamont campaign spokeswoman Justine Sessions said “Ned made his name in Connecticut politics by standing up to the status quo in Washington.” As governor he will stand up to the political establishment in Hartford, she said.
Asked if the commercial means he would consider running as an independent, if he lost the Democratic nomination, Sessions, said, “There’s no implication that that’s the case.”
Roy Occhiogrosso, a consultant with the Malloy campaign, said the commercial shows that “Ned Lamont still apparently doesn’t know who he is. Now he’s trying to be Lowell Weicker.”
“He’s fundamentally wrong in his belief the state should be run like a business,” Occhiogrosso said. “And no 60-second ad is going to change that.”