DANBURY — Before Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton even whispered or Tweeted his intention to explore a run for governor in 2014, the Connecticut Democratic Party released a statement claiming he was “out of touch with the middle class.”
Boughton said he was flattered by the attention from the Democratic Party, but doesn’t believe its attempt to label him as “out of touch with the middle class” will stick.
Unlike his two Republican opponents, Sen. John McKinney and former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley, Boughton doesn’t come from money.
A former Social Studies teacher, Boughton described himself Wednesday as a “blue collar” Republican.
“I don’t come from means. I come from this building,” he said pointing to the high school behind him.
There was no podium and no supporters cheering for him in the background. Just Danbury High School, where the air conditioning was recently fixed in the auditorium — a repair Boughton went to check on before the press conference even began.
In surveying the competition in the governor’s race, Boughton said “I believe that right now, of the candidates that are out there, no one — including the governor that we currently have — understands what the working men and women of this state are going through. They don’t understand how difficult it is to put gas in your car. How difficult it is to find a job. Feed your family.”
He said if he decides to run for governor, his candidacy will be about “sharing with the working men and women of this state what the challenges are that they face, how to correct them, and how to make policy choices in Connecticut that will serve all the residents of Connecticut, all the time.”
Foley, in a telephone interview Wednesday, chuckled at the notion that he was out-of-touch with the middle class in the state.
“I certainly think the results from 2010 say otherwise,” Foley said.
In 2010, Foley lost to Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy by only 6,404 votes after a week of recounts.
McKinney, who served two terms in the General Assembly with Boughton, welcomed him to the race.
“He’s a good guy. I consider him a friend,” McKinney said.
McKinney also chuckled at the notion that he was out-of-touch with the middle class. McKinney, whose father was a Congressman and whose mother is an heir to the Standard Oil fortune, said for the past two years he’s “fought against all the bad policies the Democrats and Gov. Malloy have foisted on the state.”
“I’m a strong supporter of the middle class and would argue I’m in touch with the needs of all the people in Connecticut,” he said.
However, Boughton maintained that his background is different.
“My family has been in the city for over 300 years. I come from a family of carpenters. My father was a Teamster. My mother was a bookkeeper. My wife owns a small business in town that she runs very successfully,” Boughton said. “So the reality is I don’t have the resources that other people have to just pop up one day and say I’m going to run for governor.”
Boughton said he would use the state’s public campaign finance system to raise money for his campaign. He will need to raise $250,000 in qualifying contributions to receive a $1.25 million grant for the primary race. If he goes on to the general election, his campaign will receive a $6 million grant from the state.
Boughton’s been down this road before. In 2010, right before the Republican convention, Boughton dropped his bid for governor and teamed up with former Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele, who was running for governor.
In May 2010, Boughton said he was confident he had enough delegate support to enter the primary, but was struggling to raise the money he needed to get the matching public grant.
In Connecticut, lieutenant governor candidates run separately from the gubernatorial candidates, so when it came to the primary, Republican voters chose Boughton over Lisa Wilson-Foley and Foley over Fedele — pairing Boughton and Foley together at the top of the ticket.
There’s been little love between the two men since. When Foley appeared on WFSB’s Face the State in January he suggested he may have done better with a female running mate.
“Trust me Tom, not having a woman on the ticket was the least of your problems . . .” Boughton Tweeted when the show aired.
Asked if he would consider running for lieutenant governor, Boughton said, “if I decide to get into this race as a candidate for governor I will not be a candidate for lieutenant governor.”
“Been there, done that,” Boughton said.
If Boughton decides to get into the race for governor he faces several challenges. He’s also running for a seventh term as mayor this November.
“I think that I’m only a candidate right now for one office, that’s for the office of mayor. Potentially later in the year I might be a candidate for governor,” Boughton said.
He said he would make a decision about a gubernatorial bid in January 2014. Until then, he has created the exploratory committee so he can start raising money. Individuals can give up to $375 to an exploratory committee, but only $100 counts toward the $250,000 fundraising goal.
“Right now we really have to do our homework and spend the next few months putting the pieces together, if you will. Hopefully raising the money we need to raise to be competitive. And then we’ll make a decision later on if the response we get from statewide Republicans is we want you as our candidate,” he added.
On the Issues
Guns: Would Boughton have signed the bipartisan gun legislation that was a response to the Sandy Hook School shooting?
“I believe and have believed that those people deserved a legislative response,” Boughton said. “I don’t know if the legislature got it right. I think in many, many ways they didn’t get it right. Particularly when it relates to school safety. To only put $15 million to harden our school sites in the entire state of Connecticut is absolutely bizarre.”
But would he have signed it?
“I would have to think long and hard about that and probably have to make a decision about what I think is best for the residents of Connecticut, but also the response for the parents of Sandy Hook,” he said.
Immigration: Boughton made national news in 2006 when 11 day laborers were arrested and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement after local undercover police posed as contractors looking for workers.
Boughton has said an immigration judge ruled in the city’s favor, agreeing that there were no civil rights violations during the arrests.
However, the controversial partnership between the Danbury Police Department and ICE that gave local police access to the federal immigration database ended in January. The immigrant community feared massive raids would lead to hundreds of undocumented workers being deported from the country.
Asked about his relationship with the immigrant community, Boughton said Danbury is about 25 percent Latino and he couldn’t get elected by 75 percent of the vote in the last election if he didn’t have a positive relationship with the immigrant community.