David Walker, the former U.S. comptroller general, has served in government and the private sector for 40 years, but he never ran for elected office until now.
He was told before getting into politics that it was “superficial” and “ethically challenged,” but he didn’t realize how much so before getting into the race for lieutenant governor.
“I’ve never done it before. I may not ever do it again,” Walker joked Monday after a Hartford Rotary Club meeting.
That being said, Walker said he’s really enjoyed the campaign. He said he likes meeting new people and he enjoys talking about the issues.
“I like to answer questions. I enjoy dealing with the media. I enjoy candidate forums and debates,” Walker said. “I love editorial boards because they’re very substantive and I’m a substance rather than form guy.”
Walker has been recruited to run for public office in the past, but had always declined.
“I love this state,” Walker, the father of two and grandfather of three, said.
Walker said he could easily move South to be closer to his family, but he’s decided to stay in Connecticut to try to improve its fiscal standing.
Walker will face state Rep. Penny Bacchiochi and Heather Bond Somers of Groton on Aug. 12.
What is the role of lieutenant governor?
The only constitutional responsibility of the lieutenant governor is to preside over the state Senate when it’s in session.
“Frankly, anyone can discharge those constitutional responsibilities,” Walker said. “It doesn’t even have to be a full-time job.”
But he’s running because he thinks “our ship of state is sinking” and Connecticut needs the strongest team possible to help turn it around and save it.
Walker said he’s spoken with both candidates for governor, Sen. John McKinney, who he has an alliance with, and Tom Foley, and he believes both would give him significant authority far beyond the constitution.
Walker said he has not met with Foley since he entered into an alliance with McKinney in May, but is confident Foley “would use me in very substantive ways.”
Walker pointed out that Foley has a lot of executive experience like he does, but he has no “turnaround experience in the government.” Walker served as U.S. comptroller general from 1998 to 2008.
Prior to throwing his hat into the ring to run for lieutenant governor, Walker headed an organization called the Comeback America Initiative, which attempted to draw attention to the country’s long-term debt.
Walker, who agrees with McKinney on most issues except for the Second Amendment, was critical of Foley’s approach to the state budget.
“If you want to balance the budget and restore fiscal sanity you have to cut spending in absolute terms,” Walker said. “To renegotiate the employee benefits contract with state workers in a way that’s fair to employees, retirees, and the people who have to pay the bill, which is the taxpayers. And you have to rightsize government and restructure how it goes about doing business.”
And if you want to implement meaningful tax relief over time “you have to cut spending,” Walker emphasized.
The straightforward, measured approach is causing Republicans like Mike McGarry of Hartford to give Walker another look.
“I think there’s a swell of support for him,” McGarry said Monday.
McGarry said he had supported Bacchiochi at the Republican convention in May, but may be voting for Walker next week.
“I haven’t been contacted by her campaign even once,” McGarry said.
He said the “sniping” back and forth with Somers is also unappealing.
Somers and Bacchiochi sparred last weekend during a televised debate on WFSB. Walker who sat between the two women did not get involved.
McGarry said he thought that appearance will benefit Walker.
But there have been no public polls on the race.
Walker said internal polls show he’s leading among “informed voters.” It’s unknown though how many of those voters will come out to vote on Aug. 12.
Walker, a co-founder of the “No Labels” movement, moved to Connecticut in 2009 and rejoined the Republican Party this year to run for lieutenant governor. He was previously unaffiliated for 15 years. He was registered as a Democrat from 1969 to 1976 and Republican from 1977 to 1996.