House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero announced Thursday he will not seek the Republican nomination for governor in 2014.
At a press conference outside the hall of the House, Cafero told reporters he did not want to commit to a time-consuming campaign that would see him spending less time with his family, including his aging parents.
“Being in politics now 28 straight years and also having a law practice, it takes a toll on family,” he said. “. . . I’m not going to insult any of you by saying I want to spend more time with the family. We all would love to do that. But I know this: I don’t want to spend any less time with my family.”
Cafero dismissed a recent Quinnipiac University poll, which found him trailing other Republican candidates, and his appearance in video evidence at a federal corruption trial as factors in his decision.
The federal trial was a corruption case involving some of former Speaker Chris Donovan’s congressional campaign staff. During the trial, witnesses alleged that Cafero had accepted a bribe from business owners looking to defeat legislation. Federal prosecutors played a secretly recorded video of Cafero meeting with the men. When one of the men tried to leave an envelope of cash in Cafero’s fridge, the video shows him instructing a staff member to clock out and walk across the street to accept the donation.
Cafero said he would be lying if he said he didn’t “wish to hell” the meeting never happened, but he said the video exonerates both himself and his staff of any wrongdoing. Cafero said that after scrutinizing the video, federal authorities did not charge him and informed him he did nothing wrong.
“I’m very proud of that. I’m proud we did the right thing. So it had no bearing with regard to my decision not to run for governor,” he said.
Last week’s Quinnipiac University poll found Cafero only received 4 percent of the vote in a hypothetical match-up against Republican rivals. That same poll found that Tom Foley, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s 2010 Republican rival, leads the field of Republican candidates and would beat Malloy by three points. Cafero dismissed the survey as a “name recognition poll.”
“Everybody in the race is about a million-dollar media buy away from universal name recognition. I mean, let’s face it, obviously the poll indicated Mr. Foley had high name recognition. He should in that he spent about $10 plus million” in previous races, he said.
Cafero declined to endorse any of the other potential Republican candidates, which include Foley, Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton.
Joseph Visconti of West Hartford and Gordon Ward of Manchester are the only two candidates to file their paperwork to run for governor with the State Elections Enforcement Commission. Both are Republicans.
Cafero said GOP candidates have a good chance at defeating Malloy next year because people in Connecticut are frustrated with the economy. But he acknowledged that any challenger would need to win votes from Democratic and unaffiliated voters in order to win the state.
“Anybody that hopes to be successful as a candidate for governor on the Republican side cannot just run because they’re not Dan Malloy. They have to articulate a specific and clear vision for the future of this state,” he said.
Cafero said Malloy will also face a difficult re-election bid because he has failed to keep promises made during the 2010 race. Cafero said Malloy has borrowed to pay for the state’s operating expenses and has not cut enough from the budget, among other things.
“To our count he’s broken most of those promises,” he said. “. . . That’s something he’s going to have to run against first and foremost.”
Former Republican state Rep. Brian Flaherty, who was on hand for Cafero’s announcement Thursday, said in order to run for governor “you have to really want it.” He said not much else matters when someone is considering a run for statewide office.
But it’s not only the candidate who is running for governor, “it’s the spouse and the children. It’s all encompassing,” he added.
“Everyone in the family has to want it too,” Flaherty said.
Robert Ward, the state Auditor of Public Accounts who served as minority leader prior to Cafero, pointed out that if you’re running for governor “you’re not earning income for a year.”
He said that’s not as much of a factor for an incumbent who already holds statewide office.
Cafero is a partner in the Hartford law firm of Brown Rudnick and it’s unclear if he would have had enough money to forego a salary for a year of campaigning. It’s something Malloy struggled with leading up to the 2010 campaign.
Flaherty said there is no more gifted communicator in the Republican Party than Cafero. He said Cafero sets forth a common sense agenda the party can embrace. He also has another job and that’s making sure the 53 Republican state representatives get re-elected and also to pick up seats in 2014.
Cafero declined to comment on whether he will seek re-election to his current seat. He said he would make that decision in January.
Christine Stuart contributed to this report