Herbst: Lauretti and Boughton hedging their bets in governor’s race
Updated 9:08 pm, Friday, November 10, 2017
A burgeoning rivalry among three Republicans with gubernatorial ambitions — Tim Herbst, Mark Boughton and Mark Lauretti — is turning into a game of chicken.
Lauretti and Boughton were easily re-elected as the mayors of Shelton and Danbury in Tuesday’s municipal elections, setting up a potential scenario where they won’t serve out their terms should they be elected governor in 2018.
That’s opened the pair up to criticism from Herbst, who said his GOP rivals are trying to have it both ways — moonlighting as candidates while running their respective cities.
“I am not hedging my bets,” Herbst said. “I’m putting all my chips in. I’m in to win.”
In contrast, Herbst opted against running for re-election as Trumbull’s first selectman, where his GOP heir apparent, Paul S. Lavoie, lost to Democrat Vicki Tesoro.
But that’s opened Herbst up to criticism himself from his rivals, who suggested that the eight-year incumbent knew his time was up.
“It’s easy to just say, ‘I’m not gonna run,’ because you’re afraid you might lose,” Boughton said. “I’m putting all my chips on the table.”
Boughton and Lauretti are hardly the first Connecticut incumbents to stand for re-election while campaigning for higher office.
In 2000, Joe Lieberman’s name appeared twice on the ballot, both as the Democratic vice presidential nominee and as U.S. senator seeking re-election. At the time, Lieberman got knocked by some foes for doing both.
In 2005, Dannel P. Malloy ran for re-election to a four-year term as Stamford mayor. The year before, the Democrat registered his candidate committee for the 2006 governor’s race, which he wound up losing in a primary to then-New Haven Mayor John DeStefano. Malloy won the 2010 governor’s race, a year after leaving office as mayor.
“No one’s hedging any bets,” said Lauretti, who was unopposed Tuesday. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to deliver. Look, I think I have fulfilled my obligations and commitment to the city of Shelton.”
The hostilities between Herbst and Lauretti, Fairfield County’s longest serving mayor or first selectman with 26 years in office, are an emerging storyline in the race to succeed Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. A record number of Republicans and Democrats are jockeying to be the nominee in the toss-up race, which pits the neighboring mayor and first selectman against each other.
Herbst cited the unsuccessful bids of Boughton and Lauretti in the 2014 governor’s race, when Boughton failed to raise the required $250,000 to qualify for public campaign financing and Lauretti could not secure a spot on the ballot.
“There are other municipal leaders that are trying to do both,” Herbst said. “I came to the conclusion that you can’t do both and do them right.”
Lauretti bristled at the idea that he cannot pivot from his mayoral duties to candidate for governor.
“Look, that’s just a lack of experience,” Lauretti said. “At least he’s admitting it.”
In 2014, Herbst raised $75,000 to qualify for public campaign financing under Connecticut’s clean elections program for his narrow loss in the state treasurer’s race. He received $812,000 in public funds for the race. He said it’s difficult to bounce around as a candidate for statewide office when there are responsibilities of running a town.
“I also felt that it wasn’t fair to the taxpayers of Trumbull to run for re-election to a two-year term knowing that there was a strong likelihood that I might not serve that term out,” Herbst said.
Feeling upbeat about his prospects for statewide office, Herbst had to sweat out his 2015 re-election race against Tesoro, defeating the challenger by 357 votes out of 11,302 cast.
Lauretti said his uncontested race for re-election didn’t hamper his ability to campaign for governor outside Shelton.
“I’m thinking about stopping in Trumbull,” Lauretti said Tuesday. “It’s a close race there. I think I can help them. People like me or they like what they see in Shelton.”
Boughton, who is exploring a third run for governor and is not yet a declared candidate, said his mayoral record in the state’s seventh-largest city is a selling point when he travels the state.
“For the last several cycles, we’ve nominated people to run for governor who aren’t electable,” Boughton said. “If I can win here in a Democratic city for many, many years, a much larger city than Trumbull or Shelton....”
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