Mark it on the calendar: On March 18, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal ended the most prolonged petting session in Connecticut’s political history. Columnist Kevin Rennie has revealed that Blumenthal was – seriously folks – throwing his hat into the gubernatorial ring. The Democrat Party has for 20 long years been trying to entice the camera shy Blumenthal to run for something – anything – but attorney general, and he now has semi-definitively said that he will go all the way.
Blumenthal’s announcement follows former attorney general Elliot Spitzer’s successful run for governor in New York. The attorneys general have been in the habit for many years of following each other around like a string of doggies, nose to tail, and it’s possible that Blumie, noting Spitzer’s successful venture in New York, figured to copy his template. Or perhaps Blumie simply tired of trotting out old excuses when political functionaries in Greenwich asked him for the hundredth time when he planned to run for governor or US senator -- or anything but attorney general.
Or could it be this? Rumors abound that the wildly popular current governor, Jodi Rell, intends not to run for a second term in her own right after having “gotten it done.”
Gotten what done?
Like her predecessor once removed, Lowell Weicker, Rell has proven to be something of a disappointment to her Republican cohorts, who are generally more conservative than Weicker but more liberal than, say, Ann Coulter. Weicker was the guy who “got it done” and gave us a state income tax, after having given every indication that he opposed such a tax in his gubernatorial campaign.
Bill Cibes' Democrat primary campaign was structured around the necessity of an income tax. After Cibes lost the primary to Bruce Morrison, Weicker, who defeated John Rowland in a three man race, then appointed Cibes as the head of his Office of Policy Management, not a comforting sign to those who believed Weicker’s campaign malarkey.
Together, the two of them “got it done” and gave us an income tax, which removed all restraints on spending. Connecticut’s budget has more than doubled since the tax was instituted; the state’s auxiliary budget, its bonding, has increased proportionally; businesses are fleeing the state and nuisance taxes have metastasized. Even Weicker, some time ago, was heard to complain, “Where did all the money go?”
During her own campaign, Rell more than once simply refused to debate her opponent, the tax and spend quasi-socialist mayor of New Haven John DeStefano, while continually giving off the odor of a governor who, like former governor John Rowland, would serve as a fire wall against the tax and spend Democrats. Once elected, Rell proposed a budget that busted the state cap on spending by raising Weicker’s income tax to furnish yet more tax money to an already overstuffed educational empire. Naturally, this left a few frowns on the faces of what remains of the Republican Party, leaving the way open to a Blumie run.
Blumenthal’s critics are out there plugging away. The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s report on delinquent attorneys general is particularly harsh on Blumenthal, named in the report as the worst attorney general in the United States, but the data in such critical analyses seems rarely to pass through the Connecticut media’s selective semi-permeable membrane.
So then, in his bid for governor – assuming the rumors are true that Rell does not intend to run again – Blumenthal will face the ghost of a Republican Party, an adulatory media and a brokered spot on the Democratic ticket. There is no enemy to the right. On the left, the sans culottes who deposed Sen. Joe Lieberman in a primary, deprived of a contender who has publicly backed an unpopular president, will lose much of their sting.
How can he possibly lose? No doubt, Blumenthal, ever the cautious politician, has asked himself that question and, having come up with a satisfying answer, now has ventured out on the gubernatorial campaign limb.