jack kramer / ctnewsjunkie
Chris Mattei announces that he’s running for Attorney General outside the State Supreme Court on Monday (jack kramer / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — Earlier this year Chris Mattei, best known for putting former Gov. John G. Rowland in jail a second time, was one of the first Democratic candidates to say he was interested in running for governor in 2018. On Monday, Mattei changed course.

He announced outside of the State Supreme Court, and in front of a large crowd of family and supporters, that he is now a candidate for Attorney General, the second Democrat to state his intention to run for the seat that will be vacated next year by Democrat George Jepsen.

Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, announced last week that he, too, wants to be Attorney General — the day after Jepsen said he won’t be seeking a third, four-year term in 2018 to the $110,000 a year position.

Mattei, a 39-year-old Hartford attorney who is now in private practice with Koskoff, Koskoff & Beider, said he decided to not run for governor and instead run for attorney general after Jepsen’s surprise announcement last week.

“With the election of Donald Trump, we face a new challenge and in the face of that challenge, I asked myself how I could be of best use to the people of Connecticut,” Mattei said. “I am running for Attorney General to help protect our rights, our values, and our future here in Connecticut.”

Mattei, who was an Assistant U.S. Attorney and Chief of the Financial Fraud and Public Corruption Unit in Connecticut, is from Windsor and currently lives in Hartford.

“I spent the better part of the last decade serving the people of Connecticut as an Assistant United States Attorney,” Mattei said. “It was my responsibility to stand up for what was right and what the law required, without fear or favor — regardless of how wealthy, powerful or influential someone might be.”

He added: “We have arrived at an unsettled time in our country and our state. In times like these, we have an obligation to commit ourselves to each other and our shared future,” Mattei said. “In times like these, the law exists to protect the defenseless and to give voice to those who go unheard and unseen without fear or favor. That is what I’ve done in my life and that is what I will do as Connecticut’s Attorney General.”

He’s already raised about $222,000 for his gubernatorial bid and says he is able to apply that funding to his Attorney General race. For Attorney General, he only needs $75,000 to be eligible to use the Citizens Election Program.

Mattei was introduced by Jonathan Gonzalez-Cruz, a senior at Southern Connecticut State University and a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient.

“We need people like Chris Mattei to stand with us — and with everyone who is vulnerable, who is voiceless, who is at risk of being left out and behind,” Gonzalez-Cruz said.

“He’s ready to stand up for all of us against those in Washington who would undermine our values and against any who would hurt our most vulnerable residents,” Gonzalez-Cruz added. “I’m proud to stand with Chris and proud to give him my support today.”

Jepsen’s announcement caused a number of others to express interest in the post, besides Mattei and Tong, who chairs the legislature’s Judiciary Committee and represents District 147 in Connecticut.

Before Jepsen, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal served as Connecticut’s attorney general for 20 years. And before Blumenthal, former U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman held the post.

The Republican Attorneys General Association Chairman and Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said last week that “in 2018, Connecticut has an opportunity to elect an attorney general who will be a consistent and reliable advocate for working families, small business owners and people all across the state. A fresh start is needed now, more than ever, in Connecticut.”

There had always been a handshake agreement between the Democratic and Republican Attorneys General Association that they wouldn’t campaign against other incumbent attorney generals, but in March Republicans voted to end that agreement.

Responding Monday to Mattei’s announcement, Republican Attorneys General Association Executive Director Scott Will said that “Connecticut does not need an activist attorney general, and they certainly do not need one who says one thing and does another. It’s time for a fresh start in Connecticut. Job creators will drive Connecticut’s economic recovery, not repeating the failed policies of the past.

The field of Republicans in Connecticut interested in the job has not been defined yet but at least one former lawmaker said he’s interested.

Former state Rep. John Shaban said he planned to file paperwork to run for the Republican nomination soon.

Including the governor, there are six constitutional positions in Connecticut government.