BRISTOL, CT — It’s a tradition that’s been going for 137 years, and like most things in Connecticut politics it’s habit for politicians from both sides of the aisle to attend the annual gathering of the Crocodile Club.
For those unfamiliar with the tradition, the club was formed in 1875 by Gad Norton, a former state legislator, to thank his colleagues for changing the town line between Bristol and Southington so that his farmhouse would be in Bristol. He wanted to own property in Bristol because that’s where he did all of his trading.
The story goes that everyone had such a good time at the first gathering that they crawled out of the party on their bellies like Crocodiles—hence the name.
At least two members of the Norton family were in attendance Friday for the 137th gathering.
Norton is the one who dictated that “there will be no serious politics allowed, no post-mortems from the last legislative session—just pleasant sociability, good fun and good food.”
Connecticut politicians—both those running for office and those headed for retirement, like Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman—attended Friday’s gathering at Lake Compounce.
Jennifer Nye, the Republican who stepped up to run against U.S. Rep. John B. Larson when no one else would, was the funniest of the bunch.
She said running against Larson is sort of like being a crocodile in the Connecticut River.
“Everybody knows you’re lost and they all want your hide on their walls,” Nye said.
She said she might have better luck bringing a Yankee fan to Fenway Park than she will running as a Republican against Larson. She said Fivethirtyeight.com has given her a 1 percent chance of beating Larson.
“You know I always wanted to be in the one percent, but this is not quite what I had in mind,” Nye said.
But the one percent shot of winning also means Larson has a 99 percent chance of doing nothing for another two years, she quipped.
Larson, who is a regular at the event, was in Washington D.C. Friday paying his respects to U.S. Sen. John McCain, who was lying in state at the U.S. Capitol.
The group took a moment of silence at the beginning of the event for McCain and former Congressman Larry DeNardis, who also recently passed.
Nye also reminded the approximately 160 in attendance that there’s also a Green Party candidate running against Larson in the First Congressional District.
“Lucky for John, he has Ned Lamont to give him plenty of advice on how to beat a third party candidate,” Nye said.
In 2006, Lamont won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, but he failed to defeat former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, who ran as an independent under the Connecticut for Lieberman Party banner after losing the Democratic nomination.
The joke took a second for the crowd to fully comprehend.
“You’ll laugh in about two minutes,” Nye told the crowd.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski was also making his Crocodile Club debut Friday.
He said he met with Sen. Joe Markley, his running mate, before the event and was informed he had to give a speech and he had to be funny.
“That’s two strikes against me,” Stefanowski said.
But Stefanowski who is new to politics did his best.
He said it’s easy to get a little arrogant after winning a five-way Republican primary, but he has three daughters to keep his ego in check.
He said he was watching television with his oldest daughter when one of his campaign commercials came on and she started fast-forwarding through it.
“Lauren, that’s me,” Stefanowski said. “She said I am so tired at hearing about you Dad, I don’t want to hear about you ever again.”
His middle daughter told him she never realized it before but “she told me: You know Dad you don’t have an upper lip.” Then his youngest chimed in that he reminds her of a turtle.
Markley, Stefanwoski’s running mate, showed up with a map of Southington.
The large notch in the map belongs to Bristol and was what they were all there to celebrate.
“As a native of Southington, I’m asked to be happy about this,” Markley said. “It’s like asking the Queen to light a sparkler on the Fourth of July.”
But he promised as lieutenant governor he will not call out the militia to take back the notch from Bristol.
“I might have a few friends in the CCDL that might be willing to do it, but I’ll leave that aside,” Markley joked referring to Connecticut’s pro-Second Amendment group.
Monte Frank, Oz Griebel’s running mate, who petitioned his way onto the ballot, said the two-party system is like having a choice between vanilla and chocolate ice cream.
Taking the ice cream theme a little further, Frank imagined all the different kinds of ice cream there would be if Ben & Jerry’s came to Hartford.
“Kick the can down the rocky road” Frank suggested. “You enjoy it now and pay for it next year, the year after, or maybe in 2027.”
Or how about “budget swirl? You don’t find out what’s in it until after you’ve paid for it.” Or “Berry, berry greedy. He would give you a big double-dip and then you have to watch as he eats it right in front of you.”
But Frank said his favorite flavor is “half-baked, which is what this state is going to be like if we legalize recreational marijuana.”
He went onto joke that when Griebel was unable to make it in minor league baseball he decided to go to law school. “I know people have low opinions of lawyers, so Oz and I figure becoming politicians can only raise our public esteem,” Frank, the past president of the Connecticut Bar Association, joked.