HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Wealthy businessman Ned Lamont vowed to create "a firewall" to protect Connecticut from President Donald Trump's policies after easily winning the Democratic nomination for Connecticut governor, defeating Bridgeport mayor and ex-convict Joe Ganim in Tuesday's primary.
Lamont's win comes 12 years after he defeated the party's then-veteran U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman in a Democratic showdown that was viewed nationally as a referendum on the war in Iraq. Lamont later lost in the general election when Lieberman ran as an independent.
As in 2006, Lamont is hoping to ride a wave of national discontent among Democrats. He has promised to "save Connecticut" from the dogma of Trump and his fellow Republicans, whether it's on immigration, the weakening of environmental standards, limiting of access to abortion or scaling back of union members' rights.
"He's wrong. We're going to draw a line in the sand. We're fighting for Connecticut values, not Trump values, Connecticut values. We are going to be the firewall," Lamont told supporters who gathered in New Haven.
Late Tuesday it was unclear who Lamont will face in November. Votes were still being counted in the five-way Republican primary battle. Lamont warned that whoever ultimately wins the nomination will is part of a "new breed of Trump Republican" and not the more moderate "George and Barbara Bush Connecticut Republicans."
Democratic Governors Association Chairman Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, said Lamont "is the only candidate" in the race for governor "who will stand up to Donald Trump when his policies hurt Connecticut."
The Republican Governors Association immediately responded by accusing Lamont of being an "enabler" of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is not running for a third term. Lamont ran in a previous gubernatorial primary and lost to Malloy in 2010.
"Connecticut desperately needs a governor who will turn the page on the Dan Malloy era, but Ned Lamont would continue it for a third term," said RGA Communications Director Jon Thompson.
Lamont, of Greenwich, has called for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, more funding for local education, electronic tolls for heavy trucks, and paid family and medical leave. A financially successful founder of a small cable company, Lamont contends he has both the business and people skills to bring various groups together to help solve the state's ongoing budget problems.
He often speaks about being an outsider and about how the "political class" has failed taxpayers and state employees.
Jenna Baker of Griswold, a 25-year-old residential manager at a group home for people with disabilities, said she voted for Lamont primarily because he received the endorsement of her union. She said Ganim's criminal past wasn't a significant factor.
"By running for governor, I assume he is trying to turn around and be a good person," she said. "I don't have anything personally against him."
Ganim, 58, served seven years in prison for steering city contracts as mayor from 1991 to 2003 in exchange for cash, wine, clothes and home improvements. Still, he was elected again as Bridgeport's mayor in 2015 — just five years after his release from prison. On Tuesday night, he called for party unity.