HARTFORD, CT — Having stepped down from his post as a state agency commissioner, Jonathan Harris was ready to announce Tuesday that he’s exploring a run for governor.
“I have executive experience and I’ve dealt with a lot of really tough issues,” Harris said Tuesday evening in a phone interview.
The former West Hartford mayor and three-term state Senator who stepped down Monday as Consumer Protection Commissioner believes he has a lot to offer the state of Connecticut.
He said he wants to tackle the tough issues, and isn’t afraid to bring people together to “forge practical solutions.”
Harris is the second Democratic candidate to formally file paperwork declaring his candidacy. The first was Middletown Mayor Dan Drew.
Unlike Drew, Harris waited until after Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced he wasn’t going to run for re-election.
Malloy said he made the announcement last week because he was comfortable with the decision, but it was also an acknowledgement that it’s really hard for gubernatorial candidates to raise $250,000 in contributions they need in order to qualify for a $1.4 million primary grant and a $6.5 million general election grant. Malloy could have waited until after the legislative session to make the announcement, but he didn’t.
Harris said he’s committed to using the Citizens Election Program and the only reason he would get out of the race is if Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman were to decide to run. He said Tuesday that he told Wyman last summer that if she wanted to run he would support her candidacy.
State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, who is also said to be considering a gubernatorial run, would also step aside if Wyman made the decision to get into the race.
Former federal prosecutor Chris Mattei, who put former Gov. John G. Rowland in prison the second time, is expected to make an announcement about his candidacy as soon as today.
Harris, 53, said he’s running because he wants to make Connecticut “a fairer, better place to live and retire.”
He said the partisan bickering that’s rampant in national politics won’t help Connecticut.
“The only way we’re going to dig ourselves out of this hole and move on is by sharing credit,” Harris said.
The former executive director of the Democratic Party said he’s guided by the principles of the Democratic Party, but he’s willing to work with those who have differing views. He said that’s how he got things done when he was mayor.
He pointed to bipartisan passage of Blue Back Square, a mixed used retail and residential space behind the town hall in West Hartford. He said he was also able to broker legislation that required all hospitals, including Catholic Hospitals, find a way to administer emergency contraception to rape victims.
“Good policy makes good politics,” Harris said.
But policy isn’t always what the opposition focuses upon in political campaigns.
Harris, who served since December 2014 in Malloy’s administration and was the head of the party during the governor’s re-election bid, is likely to be criticized by his political opponents for his proximity to Malloy.
They party’s spending during Malloy’s 2014 re-election campaign resulted in a $325,000 settlement with election regulators over the use of federal campaign funds for a publicly financed gubernatorial candidate.
Following his departure Monday as Consumer Protection Commissioner, Harris, an attorney, will join the law firm of Feiner & Wolfson in Hartford.