Heather Bond Somers of Groton may have been an unknown candidate for lieutenant governor several months ago, but due to some high-profile missteps by at least one of her opponents Republican voters are giving the newcomer to state politics a second look.
Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, who is supporting Somers’ campaign for lieutenant governor, said he only met her a few months ago and after a 20-minute conversation was convinced she would be the candidate he was supporting on Aug. 12.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with Heather over the course of this campaign,” Markley said. “From the first, I’ve been impressed by her intelligence, her clear articulation of the issues, and her charm. She wins over voters everywhere she goes, and she starts out with a strong base in eastern Connecticut, which will be a key battleground this November.”
Somers will face state Rep. Penny Bacchiochi and former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker on Aug. 12 in the Republican primary.
Markley said Somers has a business background and if she needed to he has every confidence she could be governor.
Somers had been teamed up with Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton before the Republican convention in May, but decided not to merge her finances with him causing the relationship between the two to end.
“The Citizens’ Election Program does not lend itself toward teaming up financially with a candidate,” Somers said earlier this week during radio interview with WATR’s Larry Rifkin.
Somers’ decision caused Boughton to search for another running mate to meet the $250,000 threshold necessary in order to obtain the $1.35 million primary grant. When his second running mate was unable to qualify for the ballot, Boughton dropped out of the race for governor.
The break-up of Boughton and Somers after the convention had some Republicans questioning her loyalty, but Somers said earlier this week that she had planned to run for lieutenant governor last November before her local election in Groton.
She said that’s why she didn’t seek the position of mayor. It was because she knew she was going to be seeking higher office.
Boughton has since endorsed Bacchiochi.
Why Lieutenant Governor?
The lieutenant governor in Connecticut is one of six constitutional officers, but their only responsibility is to preside over the state Senate, which is only in session five to six months per year. This gives the governor some discretion in how they want to use their lieutenant governor candidate. They could allow them to hold a more ceremonial position or they could give them a task.
Somers said she would want to be a municipal liaison and a business advocate.
She said she has seen first hand as a municipal leader how difficult it is to have a connection to the governor’s office.
“The reason I first ran for office was the property tax,” Somers said. “We have to do something because people are fleeing the state.”
She said the property tax system needs to be looked at and there needs to be exemptions for homeowners who are retired and on a fixed income. She said something also needs to be done with the corporation tax, which impacts small and medium size businesses more than the large businesses, which often have tax credits they can apply to avoid having to pay it.
During a recent visit to Center Street in Southington Somers got a tour of a successful business and some struggling businesses.
Markley and Southington Town Councilwoman Victoria Triano introduced Somers to Maureen Gagnon of Coil Pro. It’s a manufacturing company at the end of Center Street that former U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon used as a backdrop to announce her 2012 campaign.
Somers and Gagnon sat down in a conference room to chat about the business. Gagnon explained how they make slitters, oscillators and edgers for other companies. Somers told Gagnon about the biotech manufacturing company she founded and then sold.
“The reason we need to elect Heather is because she has a deep understanding of small business, which is the backbone of our economy,” Triano told Gagnon.
Somers sold her share of the biotech manufacturing company two years ago, but said she stays involved with the day-to-day operations of the company, which has about 40 employees. The company manufactures a surgical foam that can be implanted in the body to fight off infection.
While promoting herself as a Hartford outsider, Somers also points out that she’s the only candidate in the race who has started a manufacturing company in Connecticut.
Somers talked to Gagnon about the hurdles her company faced as it tried to promote its product to doctors. Gagnon doesn’t necessarily have the same regulatory restrictions, but the two traded stories back and forth about the manufacturing industry.
Somers believes her background gives her an edge over her opponents. Bacchiochi runs a property management company and Walker is retired.
However, Somers who served 12 years as a local official in Groton is still a virtual unknown in many parts of the state. She’s been working hard using direct mail and radio ads to give voters a clearer picture of who she is in the last few weeks leading up to the primary.
Tom Scott, a former lawmaker who Somers and Markley bumped into at a local restaurant, said Markley knows how to pick winners. He said he doesn’t throw his support behind just any candidate.
Click here to read our profile of Bacchiochi.
The three candidates faced each other in a debate that aired Sunday on NBC 30 and will face each other again on WFSB on Aug. 3.