Connecticut’s largest business lobby plans to spend $400,000 to target 15 legislative races, four in the state Senate and 11 in the House.
Joe Brennan, president and CEO of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said they plan to make endorsements in 75 to 80 races, but it will target just 15 races with money for advertising and direct mail to see if they can make a difference.
“We’ve been challenged over the last couple of years putting together working majorities in the House and the Senate,” Brennan said Tuesday in a phone interview.
Brennan dismissed reports that they were specifically looking to flip control of the Democratic majority in the Senate to Republicans. He said if that was truly the case they would be targeting more than 4 races in that chamber, which is controlled 21-15 by Democrats.
He said he understands how the numbers could lead to that conclusion, but the organization is focused on supporting candidates who are willing to limit spending, not raise taxes, and restructure government.
Brennan said their decision to target specific races was not based on ideology, but rather on voting records.
To that end the group is supporting four Republican challengers in what could be considered swing districts:
• George Logan over Sen. Joe Crisco, D-Woodbridge;
• John French over Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly;
• Republican Heather Somers of Groton over former Democratic state Rep. Tim Bowles, and;
• Len Suzio over Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, D-Meriden.
The races between Suzio and Bartolomeo and French and Flexer are rematches.
Suzio actually held the seat for a term between 2010 and 2012 before he was defeated by Bartolomeo.
Somers and Bowles are vying for the seat being vacated by Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-North Stonington.
In the House, the business lobby is supporting Reps. John Hampton, D-Simsbury, and Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport. Hampton and Steinberg are two members of the moderate caucus and are fiscally conservative.
On the Republican side, CBIA is supporting incumbent Reps. Aundré Bumgardner, R-New London, Charles Ferraro, R-West Haven, and Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford.
The group is also supporting Republican challengers in six House districts:
• Republican Scott Storms over Tim Curtis, past chairman of the Windsor Democratic Town Committee, in a district that includes both Windsor and Windsor Locks;
• Brian Ohler, a Republican from North Canaan over William Riiska, a Democrat from Salisbury;
• Griswold First Selectman Kevin Skulczyk over Democrat Tracey Hanson, a member of the Voluntown Board of Selectmen;
• Torrington Board of Finance member Christopher Diorio over Rep. Michelle Cook, D-Torrington;
• Nicole Klarides-Ditria, the sister of House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, over Rep. Theresa Conroy, D-Derby, and;
• Andrew Falvey, a former Cheshire Town Council member over Democratic candidate, Liz Linehan, for a vacant seat.
Asked Monday about CBIA’s decision to get involved with the races, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in his job he has to work with Democrats and Republicans and “people get to spend their money the way they want.”
He said he would continue to work with CBIA when their interests align.
However, he also noted that he’s amazed they are supporting Republicans for re-election who voted against a lockbox for transportation funds.
“I think for that their choices are misguided,” Malloy said.
He said transportation is one of the top concerns of businesses across the state.
“A number of the candidates that they are supporting, specifically on the House side, voted against that lockbox. I think they should re-examine those decisions,” Malloy added.