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Politics & Policy

A Three-Ring Weekend? Whither the Connecticut GOP?

With two-term uber-liberal Dan Malloy, America’s most unpopular governor, opting to retire, the Constitution State’s GOP has an excellent opportunity to recapture the governorship, as well as take over the statehouse (alas, maybe only to find bare fiscal cupboards). Tomorrow, Connecticut Republicans commence their biannual convention to nominate candidates for statewide offices. With 15 announced gubernatorial candidates — not a one has emerged from the pack to be a front-runner in any discernable sense — a circus is likely to prevail before the adjournment is gaveled, and as much inconclusion will emerge from the two-day process as was the case beforehand. Given the candidate crap shoot, it makes symbolic sense to hold the confab at Foxwoods Casino.

So what will follow on the march towards Election Day? Per the party’s rules, any candidate gaining 15 percent of delegate votes is included in the mid-August primary. Others may join that primary via a signature-gathering process. Handicapping the shebang: With no one expected to come close to winning a delegate majority, never mind preventing others from clearing the 15 percent threshold, it’s likely the convention will squeeze out a primary-candidate brood that could consist of Danbury mayor Mark Boughton, former Trumbull first selectman Tim Herbst, attorney Peter Lumaj, New Britain mayor Erin Stewart, and former U.S. comptroller general David Walker (each of whose campaigns has also qualified for public funding). In addition, self-funding businessmen candidates Bob Stefanowski and David Stemerman are bypassing the convention route and going after signatures — they’ll be on the August ballot too. Who knows, so may others. Makes you wonder what the value of the convention is.

Anyway, about the Obama-gushing Erin Stewart. She’s no conservative, so Newsmax’s recent glowing report about the New Britain mayor — which makes no mention of her cringeworthy actions — has come off as a head scratcher. For example, Stewart is the only GOP hopeful open to highway tolls and a mileage tax, an idea killed in the just-ended legislative session because it sparked intense public outrage. She was a major Malloy ally in supporting a 9.4-mile passenger-scarce busway that cost taxpayers $570 million to construct and over $25 million a year to operate (at a massive loss). It’s a big fat boondoggle. And oh yeah: While a member of the city’s school board, Stewart rah-rah’d the distribution of condoms to fifth graders. And such is an alluring Republican, by Connecticut standards.

Traditionally, the GOP convention ends with the gubernatorial nomination. But this year, party leaders are rigging the process to end with the nomination of a lieutenant governor candidate. Why? It’s probably the persistent strain of Weickerism, which is averse to nominating a true conservative — such as retiring state senator Joe Markley, an occasional NRO author (he’s a tax-cutter, a leading free-speech warrior, and is widely held to be the Republican most despised by Malloy) who is running for LG, and who is, alongside House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, the GOP legislator most capable of drawing and inspiring a crowd (and volunteers). The hope of apparatchiks is that the No. 2 slot might go to a failing gubernatorial hopeful.

We know the drill: knife, nose, face, spite. Assuming the convention will be broadcast on Connecticut public TV, I’ll probably watch. I hope the liquor store will be open.

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