Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton is hoping Groton Mayor Heather Somers, a descendant of Founding Father Roger Sherman, helps him raise the money and capture the delegates he needs to secure the Republican nomination for governor.
The decision to name a running mate so far in advance of the party convention in May is unconventional in Connecticut politics.
“It just made sense that we started early,” Boughton said Tuesday at a press conference in Groton to make the announcement about Somers.
Boughton said the decision was based partly on the dynamics of the Republican Party and partly on Somers’ personality.
Somers, an entrepreneur who started her own medical device company in 1997, is serving her fifth term on the Groton Town Council, which is located in Connecticut’s vast Second District.
“Why bother waiting? The times are so challenging and the issues are so important,” Boughton said. “It definitely is a different approach, but we think it’s a winning approach.”
In 2010, Boughton described the race for lieutenant governor as “chaotic” because Tom Foley, who ended up winning the nomination, tried to find a running mate at the convention. When word leaked out that Foley was encouraging former state Rep. Lenny Winkler of Groton to run for the position, the response from the party faithful was swift.
Winkler, who voted in favor of the income tax back in 1991, received 90 votes, which wasn’t enough to primary. Eventually, Boughton who had been teamed up with former Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele, became Foley’s running mate after the primary.
“Heather Somers I believe would be a great lieutenant governor, a great governing partner who understands Connecticut, and will work tirelessly on public policy issues that face the state and I want to do that early,” Boughton said.
Somers is now the third lieutenant governor candidate to enter the race. Penny Bacchiochi of Stafford and David Walker of Bridgeport have already announced their candidacies, but are not teamed up with any of the other gubernatorial candidates.
Boughton said he spoke with Bacchiochi before Tuesday’s announcement and explained his strategy.
“I have an immense amount of respect for her and congratulate anyone willing to throw their hat in the ring,” he said.
The delegate count for the Republican Party is not complete, but it’s likely that a large number of them will come from the Second District.
Having a lieutenant governor candidate from Groton gives Boughton some geographical diversity.
“Southeastern Connecticut has sort of been the redheaded stepchild that nobody really visits or goes to,” Somers said. “A lot of the focus is in Fairfield County, so I think together we bring a good package.”
Boughton said Somers also brings a fundraising prowess, which is important as well.
Teaming up gives Boughton and Somers and opportunity to jointly raise funds going into the primary. Under Connecticut’s public finance rules, a lieutenant governor candidate can use the governor’s candidate committee to promote both candidates.
A lieutenant governor candidate is required to raise $75,000 in small donations and receive a $375,000 primary grant. A candidate for governor can raise $250,000 in small donations and receive a $1.25 million primary grant.
“I’ll be donating to Heather’s committee, she’ll be donating to my committee because we want to see success for both of us,” Boughton said.
He said the rest is a paperwork issue that will be sorted out at a later date.
Asked if there was a potential to run a whole slate of statewide candidates for Secretary of the State, Treasurer, Attorney General, and Comptroller, Boughton said, “there’s very much a potential possibility that you’ll see Team Boughton expand over the next month or two.”
Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said she has yet to hear any specifics from Boughton about what programs he would cut in the budget. She said all she’s heard is criticism of the progress that Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is making.
Asked for specifics, Boughton said if he was governor he wouldn’t be giving economic development dollars to companies to move from one town to another. He also wouldn’t give money to companies like the Lazy Burritto, whose owner was involved in five collection and foreclosure actions over the past three years.