woman speaking at podium
Greenwich Democrat Dita Bhargava ramped up her primary campaign to win the party nomination for state treasurer Tuesday. Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Greenwich Democrat Dita Bhargava ramped up her primary campaign to win the party nomination for state treasurer Tuesday, outlining a policy agenda that prioritizes shielding state pension plans from inflation and encourages “socially responsible” investments.

Bhargava, a former Wall Street trader who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for state treasurer in 2018, is one of three Democrats seeking the nomination to run for state treasurer. She is competing with Karen DuBois-Walton of New Haven and Erick Russell, a former vice chair of the state party, who delegates endorsed during their convention last month.

Bhargava detailed her plans for the post during a mid-day press conference outside the state treasurer’s office in Hartford. Campaigns should be about exchanging ideas, she told reporters.

“The people of Connecticut deserve to know that the person running to invest their money knows exactly what they plan to do with it,” she said. “There is often a lot of noise during a campaign and a lot of it will have nothing to do with the actual job.”

Her campaign circulated a seven-page policy platform that included plans to reduce the impact of inflation on the state’s investments on behalf of the state employee pension fund. 

Bhargava said she would prioritize investments in real estate, commodities and other assets that may be less impacted by the current rise in inflation. Currently, she said the fund is invested largely in stocks and bonds.

“With equities and fixed income returns down significantly this year, it’s safe to assume the portfolio suffers concerning losses,” she said. “We must quickly diversify the pension portfolio into inflation-protected securities like commodities, real estate, private equity and tips.”

Bhargava, who lost a son to a drug overdose during the 2018 campaign, said she also envisioned a treasurer’s office that could affect social change by investing in companies that exhibit responsible social governance policies. She said she would review state investments in pharmaceutical companies to ensure they have not engaged in unscrupulous marketing.

“This is not only the right thing to do but as the fiduciary of the funds it would be prudent to shy away from investing in companies that are a liability,” Bhargava said. “We can impact the day-to-day lives of people and whole communities through responsible investing.”

Although delegates chose Russell, a New Haven resident, at the convention, Bhargava said she did not view her primary challenge as an uphill battle. She appeared Tuesday with three Democratic lawmakers — Reps. Anne Hughes of Easton and Kerry Wood of Rocky Hill as well as Sen. Saud Anwar of South Windsor — and said she had already raised the necessary funds to qualify for Connecticut’s public campaign finance program. 

Republicans have seemingly coalesced around one candidate for state treasurer, Rep. Harry Arora of Greenwich, who has already been awarded a public-funded grant to run for the office. 

Reached by phone on Friday, Russell said he expected to qualify for funding soon. 

“We are on pace to finish up fundraising with plenty of time to make sure we’re getting our message out to voters,” Russell said. “We’re coming out of the convention with a lot of momentum and things have gone really well since then.”

On Tuesday Bhargava said she benefited from being the only candidate to have run a statewide campaign in the past. In 2018, she won about 43% of the vote in a primary against current Treasurer Shawn Wooden. Wooden unexpectedly announced in April he would not seek another term.

“I think that experience and the fact that I did fairly well given the dynamics of last time… I do think this time around people will remember that they voted for me — remember why they voted for me,” Bhargava said.