A bruising Democratic primary battle for state comptroller just got a little nastier Friday when Michael Jarjura’s campaign manager filed a complaint against Kevin Lembo.
Jarjura, Waterbury’s mayor, and Lembo, state Health Care Advocate, are vying for the Democratic nomination for state comptroller on Aug. 10.
The complaint filed Friday by Robert Brown of Watertown alleges that Lembo can’t count the funds raised in his exploratory campaign toward the $75,000 he must raise in order to qualify for the $375,000 state grant.
In the complaint Brown opines that the money from the exploratory committee can’t be counted towards the total because Lembo declared his candidacy for lieutenant governor as far back as April. Such a declaration means Lembo would need to immediately form a candidate committee and Brown concluded that a reading of the new law says one candidate committee can’t transfer money to another candidate committee.
Lembo’s campaign called Brown’s complaint a “distraction.” The Lembo campaign believes it followed the state’s clean elections laws when it transferred about $15,000 from the exploratory committee to the candidate committee.
In an email to Lembo supporters Saturday evening, Jacqueline Kozin, Lembo’s campaign manager, said Jarjura’s complaint is “baseless” and “without merit.”
However, the filing of the complaint did buy the Lembo campaign some additional time to raise more money.
“The CEP has advised us to continue raising additional contributions to serve as a buffer in case others are disqualified. If we can raise an additional $4,000 by Sunday evening, we can resolve this matter quickly and avoid a Foley-esque court battle on our side of the aisle,” Kozin wrote in an email.
In a phone interview Monday Lembo said the campaign raised $6,000 over the weekend and is confident he will qualify for the $375,000 grant on Wednesday. Lembo maintains that he never declared his candidacy for lieutenant governor, which is the focus of Brown’s complaint.
A contentious campaign battle was strained even more by the fact that Jarjura and Lembo didn’t have much time to raise the money. They had close to nine weeks to raise the $75,000 because until mid-May state Comptroller Nancy Wyman was still running for re-election. That all changed when Wyman announced she was running for lieutenant governor.
Lembo had been exploring a bid for lieutenant governor since last year and Jarjura had mulled over bids for lieutenant governor, governor, and attorney general before settling on state comptroller. According to state records, Jarjura never raised any money during the exploratory phase of his campaign. Lembo sought to transfer about $15,000 in exploratory funds over to his candidate committee, similar to what Mary Glassman did when she formed her lieutenant governor committee.
Lembo received the Democratic Party’s endorsement at the convention in May and Jarjura won enough delegate support to primary after a vote swap between the Waterbury and New Haven delegations was brokered.
The State Elections Enforcement Commission approved Jarjura’s $375,000 grant last week and will consider Lembo’s grant application this Wednesday.
Depending on what happens in the primary, Lembo or Jarjura will end up running against Jack Orchulli, Republican candidate running for state comptroller.