Monte Frank speaking at a Jan. 26, 2020 press conference in Bushnell Park Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

HARTFORD, CT — Guaranteed a spot on the ballot during this year’s race for governor, the Griebel-Frank For CT party began during a Wednesday press conference to map a path forward in the absence of its eponymous candidate. 

During the 2018 gubernatorial race, R. Nelson “Oz” Griebel secured 54,741 votes — about 3.9% — in an election that ultimately went to Democrat Ned Lamont. Although Lamont beat out Republican Bob Stefanowski by 44,372 votes. Griebel’s performance was strong enough to secure his party the third line on this year’s ballot.

But the political party that bears his name moves into this year’s election cycle threading a delicate needle: Griebel, a former investment banker and longtime leader of the Metro-Hartford Alliance, died unexpectedly in 2020 when he was hit by a vehicle while jogging in Pennsylvania. 

File photo of Oz Griebel in the state Capitol press room in 2018 Credit: Christine Stuart / CTNewsJunkie

“The impact that he had on Hartford and the state of Connecticut is going to be felt for a very long time and part of the legacy that he left us is this movement,” Monte Frank, his former running mate, said. “That Griebel-Frank for Connecticut continues.”

Frank and allies in the third-party Serve America Movement addressed reporters beside the Bushnell Park Carousel during an outdoor event, frigid despite the mid-day sun. They announced plans to run yet-unnamed candidates to compete in races for governor, secretary of the state and registrars of voters in 106 towns across Connecticut. 

While Frank had no plans to put his own name on the ballot this year, he said the group was in discussions with several potential candidates. They will be chosen based in part on support for election policies designed to broaden the political discourse beyond the two major parties. Frank and other speakers mentioned support for ranked choice votings and term limits.

They will not be looking for partisans. Frank’s 2018 ticket with Griebel shunned political labels. Griebel had previously run unsuccessfully as a Republican and Frank, a lawyer, had identified as a Democrat. 

“Voters can vote for the candidates they think can do the best job for our state without having to worry about the lesser of two evils or how big someone’s bank account is,” Frank said Wednesday. “That’s what Oz Griebel started. That’s what the Griebel-Frank party is all about and that’s why we are still here and going to be here for a long time.”

But although Griebel was mentioned often during the event, Frank acknowledged the complexities of moving forward with a party bearing the name of a deceased man. He said the party had asked the secretary of the state whether it could change its name to the SAM party and still retain its position on this year’s gubernatorial ballot. Before his death, Griebel was head of Connecticut’s Serve America Movement (SAM) task force.

“We are waiting for a ruling from the secretary of the state as to whether or not they will permit that simple name change,” Frank said. “We think we have a strong legal position that the name ought to be changed.”

It remains an open question, according to the secretary of the state’s office. Gabe Rosenberg, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s general counsel, said the office was working with the State Election Enforcement Commission and the attorney general to get an answer. 

“It’s a complicated area of the law,” Rosenberg said. 

In the meantime, the Griebel-Frank For CT party and the Connecticut Serve America Movement will continue to recruit candidates. 

“We want to make it easier for people to get involved — regular people who don’t have to change themselves to get involved in their communities,” said Mike Urgo, executive director of the state SAM Alliance. “Mark our words: this is something serious here.”