Who is to blame for the breakup of the political partnership between Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Republican candidate for governor, and Heather Bond Somers, GOP candidate for lieutenant governor?
Somers certainly instigated the political divorce because Boughton would have continued the arrangement. Her ambition apparently grew to exceed her loyalty to Boughton.
Boughton was perhaps too trusting, although that's hardly a damning character flaw. For his vote of confidence in a successful small-town mayor and entrepreneur, all he has left is a footprint on his forehead. Somers used him as a stepladder into the not-so-elite world of lieutenant-gubernatorial politics.
In the primary, she faces endorsed candidate Rep. Penny Bacchiocci of Stafford, a pro-gun, pro-choice medical marijuana advocate, something of a policy melting pot. The third candidate, former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker, would have been the nominee if politics were all about policy. Since the two are very different sports, Walker finds himself paired with also-ran candidate for governor Sen. John McKinney of Fairfield.
Somers may end up winning or land a cabinet spot in a Republican administration. If not, she would be wise to ask herself if hard work and patience would have been more fruitful. Recent Republican political history in Connecticut is littered with failed candidates who ignored the long game and ended up with nothing to show for it.
In the short term, Somers will face a new hurdle convincing voters they should trust her as much as Boughton did. Especially since her name provides an easy punch line: Heather "Her Word Is Not Her" Bond Somers.
Somers essentially defunded Boughton's campaign, at least temporarily. His new lieutenant governor partner, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, has to scrape together enough signatures to get on the primary ballot, which would allow them to secure state funding for their combined campaign. Otherwise, Ambassador Tom Foley's only opponent in the primary for governor will be Senate Minority Leader McKinney.
If that's the matchup, it's unlikely Foley will have to pay McKinney any attention. After nearly two decades in the General Assembly, McKinney's political punch still stings like a butterfly. He couldn't get enough votes at the convention to qualify for a primary on his own and needed help from other camps — Lauretti and Foley delegates switched to get McKinney over the threshold and into the primary — to avoid further embarrassment.
Somers' ambition could have done some good in the state Senate. McKinney's weakness at the convention demonstrates the gentle hold he had on leadership in his caucus. If a few Republican senators were as calculating as Somers, they would have retired him long ago.
Perhaps the biggest losers in Somers' solo gambit into the little-big league that is the lieutenant governor's race are grass-roots Republicans. Her having derailed Boughton's campaign may mean that Foley gets a pass in an easy primary.
A competitive primary could be a good proving ground for front-runner Foley. Although running against Gov. Dannel P. Malloy isn't a bad strategy, at some point voters are going to ask, "Other than not being Malloy, who is Tom Foley?"
As someone who cares deeply about policy, I fear a poorly defined candidate will result in an equally undefined administration. A spirited primary is an opportunity for Foley to put some policy meat on the strong organizational bones of his campaign.
His list of endorsements, measured in words, is longer than his policy platform. You can't believe everything you read on the Internet, but you can't read much on Foley's website.
McKinney has promised a positive campaign. Boughton and Foley may agree with that understanding, but Gov. Malloy probably won't. With both Foley and McKinney planning state-funded campaigns, it appears Republicans have found a way to double-dip in their taxpayer-funded campaign against Malloy.
(The legend that taxpayers don't fund the Citizen's Election Program is finally ending with the recent appropriation of regular tax revenue to backstop its funding. Taxpayers always have funded the program and always will.)
Indeed, if Republicans successfully use their state-funded primary to tenderize the sitting governor instead of fighting for votes, expect the legislature to take action next year to prevent future straw candidates from using taxpayer money to run political ads.
Zachary Janowski of the Plantsville section of Southington is an investigative reporter at the Yankee Institute For Public Policy. He writes as a visiting member of The Courant's editorial board.