Candidates for governor of Connecticut gear up for primaries

Democrats and Republicans vying to be governor of the state of Connecticut are having their primaries. Who sits in the office at the statehouse really depends on who turns out more people: the Democrats who are running against President Donald Trump and his unpopularity in this state or the Republicans who are running against Gov. Dan Malloy, a Democrat who is also unpopular in the state.

Malloy isn't seeking re-election, but his 21-percent approval rating and the state's deep budget deficit are on the mind of everyone who is gunning for the two-term governor's seat.

"My strategy is to make darn sure that we're not talking about the last 8 or 18 years, but to talk about where we're going," said businessman Ned Lamont, who is the Democratic party's choice to steer the state back on track after losing the primary to Malloy in 2010.

"How do you get to an honestly balanced budget, how do you get the business community some confidence again—this is where they want to be and grow and invest," Lamont said. "And that starts with transportation and education."

"This is not a time for on-the-job training. You can't fly in every eight years, raise your hand and say, 'I want to fix this problem,'" Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim said, "with no skill set, with no background, and really no commitment to public service."

Ganim, a Democrat, served seven years in federal prison on corruption charges but he is hoping his combined 15 years as mayor before and after his incarceration make him the more compelling candidate.

"Clearly, I'm a Democrat, but I run against the establishment that's there," Ganim said. "I've criticized the administration that is there on their failure to deliver on a balanced budget that gives people credibility in state government."

"If the best the Democratic party can do is a retread candidate and a convicted felon as their leading candidates for governor, I think that says that no other Democrat wanted to come forward because they don't want to defend this abject record of failure," said Tim Herbst, a former first selectman of Trumbull.

Herbst is one of five Republicans hoping to wrest Connecticut's top office from Democratic control. But first, he would have to win the primary next week against three political outsiders and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who has the state party's support.

"We're want to model what we've done here in Danbury, Connecticut, which has the lowest unemployment rate in the state, one of the safest cities in Connecticut, and do those very same things at the state level," Boughton said. "We think we can do that, and by doing that we'll be able to grow jobs and put people back to work."

But if the Democrats are distinguishing themselves from Malloy, even Herbst, the self-styled most conservative GOP candidate in this very blue state, is running away from President Trump.

"This election is about Connecticut, it's not about Washington," Herbst said. "It's about the state of Connecticut and how we're going to fix Connecticut and lift up our people, lift up our state and make our state better for those who live here."

Connecticut is one of the few states that will have a genuinely competitive governor's race this fall, which means the candidates who win their respective primaries on August 14 are going to have a very tough fight ahead to win in November.