A campaign spokesperson said Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty won’t be joining fellow major office Democratic candidates at rallies planned for Wednesday in Bridgeport with President Barack Obama and Monday in Hartford with former President Bill Clinton.
The visits are aimed primarily at boosting the re-election bid of Gov. Dan Malloy. Esty, a fellow Democrat, is seeking a second term in Connecticut’s 5th District, which Malloy lost by more than 30,000 votes four years ago while squeaking his way to a victory statewide.
While Esty hasn’t overtly distanced herself from Malloy, who tapped her husband, Dan, as his first commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, it’s clear she’ll need support from thousands of independent voters who might choose Foley for governor and her for Congress.
Adding to the potential awkwardness if Esty were to attend either rally:
Esty has split with the Obama administration and House Democratic leadership on several key votes, including a move seen as undermining parts of the president’s Obamacare health insurance law, and a measure calling for an investigation of the IRS’s alleged targeting of conservative nonprofit organizations.
And two years ago, Clinton took the unusual step of weighing into a Democratic congressional primary by endorsing Esty’s bitter rival, Dan Roberti, at the very last minute before the election. It was widely seen as a favor called in by Roberti’s powerful Washington lobbyist father, Vin Roberti. Longtime Clinton strategist James Carville also worked on Roberti’s behalf.
But Clinton quickly rallied behind Esty in 2012, appearing on behalf of her and Chris Murphy’s campaign for U.S. Senate at a rally in Waterbury prior to that year’s general election. Fences appear to be mending after that primary, as Dan Roberti was planning to host a fundraiser for Esty at his home in Kent on Sunday.
GREENBERG’S GROCERY STORE: Mark Greenberg, the Litchfield real estate developer challenging Esty, detoured from discussion of federal political policy several times at the candidates’ first debate Thursday night in Danbury.
At one point, he lamented that it’s taken “three years” for his company to gain approval to build a larger Stop and Shop up the street from an existing location in his hometown of Litchfield. He blamed onerous wetlands regulations and a state court system that “has allowed a few people to stall this process.” He said the delay has cost the town $180,000 in additional tax revenue.
Greenberg said that he supports measures that would allow “proper development and quicker development” in order to spur economic development and job growth.
Esty responded with criticism of Greenberg’s focus on state issues, saying, “I thought we were running for Congress, not governor.”
FAMILY MATTERS: Esty’s latest TV ad features her husband and kids talking about how she’s not a typical politician, and that she returns home to Cheshire every weekend while Congress is in session. Greenberg also has used family members in campaign materials, cutting a TV ad recently with his father, Jerry, talking about Social Security, and enlisting his children in an earlier video supporting the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge.”
SLOGANS: Competing groups of supporters for Esty and Greenbeg rallied outside the Portuguese Cultural Center of Danbury prior to the candidates’ first debate Thursday night. Both had bullhorns and were chanting slogans. Greenberg’s contingent included a dog and homemade sign that said, “Bark for Mark,” in homage to Greenberg’s animal shelter charity, the Simon Foundation of Bloomfield. Esty’s supporters were chanting, “We want Esty, she’s our bestie.”
EX-SPOKESMEN: Jeb Fain and Chris Cooper, the men who served as spokesmen for the Esty and Greenberg campaigns two years ago, are not working for the candidates this cycle, but aren’t far removed from the action. Cooper is serving as spokesman for Republican Tom Foley’s campaign against Malloy, while Fain is working for Washington-based Ralston Lapp Media, the consulting firm that is producing Esty’s TV ads. Laura Maloney, a veteran of the 2012 Esty campaign, has taken a leave from serving as Esty’s congressional spokeswoman to handle the same duties for the campaign. Greenberg’s campaign, meanwhile, is operating without a full-time press spokesman. Campaign Manager Bill Evans is handling the role in addition to his other responsibilities.
BABY BOOM: This is Greenberg’s third run for the 5th District seat. He lost primaries in 2010 and 2012 to former state Sens. Sam Caligiuri and Andrew Roraback, respectively. “I’ve been running for five years,” he said at Thursday’s debate, pointing out that he had only three children when he started campaigning and that he has five now. “My wife is hoping I don’t run again.”
TERM LIMITS: Greenberg pledged not to run again if he loses this year. If he wins in November, he pledged to serve no more than two terms. He said that part of the problem with Congress today is that politicians get elected and immediately start working on fundraising to hold on to their seat instead of on solving the country’s difficult problems.
COMPETITIVE: National Journal’s “Hotline” listed “30 House races most likely to change hands” in November. Connecticut’s 5th District didn’t make the list, but was considered competitive enough to be mentioned with eight others as an “honorable mention.”
Author’s note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly neglected to include that Clinton appeared on Esty’s behalf in 2012.