HARTFORD, CT — (Updated 1:30 p.m.) The co-chair of the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Development is considering a Republican bid for governor amid criticism that he used his appointment to the commission as a launching pad for a campaign.
Jim Smith, the former president of Webster Bank, said he has a “keen interest in public service,” which was reinforced by his work on the commission.
“I believe to my core that I would bring to the Governor’s office the experience, leadership skills and commitment needed to work with the legislature to bring about the changes needed to put our state government and economy back on solid footing, and ensure a prosperous future for everyone who calls our wonderful state home,” Smith said Friday morning in a statement.
Smith didn’t say whether he was definitely going to run, but said he’s having conversations.
“Recognizing that time is short, I’ve been rapidly completing a serious analysis of what it would take to win the nomination and the ensuing election — from building a first-rate campaign team, to raising a considerable amount of funding, to meeting the criteria to secure the Republican nomination,” Smith said.
Lori Pelletier, president of the AFL-CIO, said Smith even hinting at a run eliminates any ounce of credibility the commission may have had.
“It’s obvious he was using this as a launching pad for his campaign,” Pelletier said Friday morning at the AFL-CIO convention in Hartford.
There are already 15 Republicans who are vying for the nomination or trying to petition their way onto the August primary ballot.
Smith, who lives in Middlebury, just joined the Republican Party.
In 2011, Smith changed his party affiliation from Democrat to the Independent Party and as recently as March 21 from Independent to Republican.
The road to an endorsement is complicated. Smith would not be able to collect signatures from Republican voters to gain ballot access by petitioning his way onto the Republican primary ballot because he’s not a member of the party yet.
The state has a three-month cooling off period for people who change their party affiliation, so he wouldn’t be able to file as a Republican candidate until June 21.
The Republican convention will be held the second week in May, so that also complicates his path to the ballot because it comes before he’s officially able to even be considered a Republican.
Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy appointed Smith to the commission. Malloy’s office did not respond to requests for comment.