Democratic State Comptroller Kevin Lembo announced Tuesday that will be seeking re-election in 2014.
He’s the first of six constitutional officers in the state to file the necessary paperwork with the State Elections Enforcement Commission to seek a second term using the state’s public financing system.
In order to qualify for public funding, Lembo will have to raise $75,000 in small donations under $100. If he succeeds he will receive a $750,000 campaign grant.
In announcing a run for a second term Tuesday, Lembo praised the public financing system and said he wouldn’t be running if it didn’t exist. He said he learned the hard way that those currently excluded from giving him money through the public financing system are those who would like to do business with the state and attempt to influence him.
In 2012, he said he briefly opened a Political Action Committee in order to support other candidates for office who believed in data-driven decision making and transparency.
“But it was very clear to me that the only folks who really wanted to give to the PAC were not those dedicated to data-driven decision making, but those who couldn’t give to me directly as a candidate,” Lembo said.
So he said he shut the PAC down. Not to be “high and mighty” about it, but “I feel like I have a finite amount of time to do some things that I care about,” Lembo said Tuesday.
Since taking office, Lembo has advocated for greater transparency in government spending, particularly regarding the hundreds of millions of dollars spent each year in economic development programs. Even though his efforts to pass that legislation failed this year, Lembo said he isn’t giving up.
In the meantime, he was able to create — at no expense to the state — a website that gives taxpayers access to information about the state’s finances in a way that was never done before.
Also Lembo said through the 2011 negotiations with state employees, he was able to help bend the cost of health care by getting people to access their doctors and get the age appropriate screenings needed to catch something like colon cancer before it becomes life threatening.
At times, his drive toward transparency and his monthly accounting of the state budget has put Lembo at odds with Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration, but he downplayed the disagreements Tuesday.
“I am acutely aware of the responsibilities of this office,” Lembo said. “It is the job of the comptroller to call the balls and strikes as we see them and not to be swayed by one group of another.”
He said that when it comes to the budget numbers, the difference as a percentage of the whole of the state budget has always been rather small.
And even though he’s a Democrat at the end of the day, Lembo said the only team he’s on is “the people’s team and there are good ideas that come from both sides.”
“It is a disservice to the people of the state to always think you have the best ideas,” Lembo said.
In 2010, Lembo became the first openly gay candidate to win statewide office in Connecticut. He had initially explored a run for lieutenant governor until his former boss, Nancy Wyman, announced that she was going to be Malloy’s running mate.
Before running for comptroller in 2010, Lembo served as the state’s Healthcare Advocate. He was appointed to that position in 2004 and reappointed in 2008. Before that he ran the policy section of the comptroller’s office for six years.
Lembo holds a Master of Public Administration degree from California State University. He lives in Guilford with his spouse, Charles Frey, and their three children.