Connecticut doesn't need a governor as much as it needs a hero.
But in less than a year, we will elect a new governor nonetheless, and she or he will be expected to accomplish something that is seemingly impossible for a mere mortal: Find a brilliant, creative and sensible solution to the state's financial problems, and get the General Assembly, labor unions and people of Connecticut to support it.
Anyone with political super powers should step up.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy decided not to run for a third term months ago — a prudent move, given his abysmal approval ratings. With Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman's recent decision not to run, the field is now open for Democrats and Republicans.
And more than a few have strolled into the corral: The Democrats include former West Hartford Mayor Jonathan Harris, Middletown Mayor Dan Drew, former prosecutor Chris Mattei, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, former Wall Street finance executive Dita Bhargava and former state Veterans Affairs Commissioner Sean Connolly. Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin is on the fence.
Republican contenders include Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, state Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, former federal official David Walker, state Sen. Toni Boucher and Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti.
Do any of those candidates have what it takes?
Connecticut needs a leader, not a liar, not a bully, not a blamer. It needs someone who can persuade legislators to drop their strict partisanship. It needs someone who understands municipal finance. It needs someone who is willing to make tough decisions. It needs someone who is creative. It needs someone who can make clear arguments and support them with facts and data. It needs someone who can put forth a plan so solid and fair, with real sacrifices from all quarters, that few can object. It needs someone who is dedicated to the state, not to her or his own aggrandizement.
Perhaps more than anything else, this race needs someone who is capable of reining in a bifurcated and directionless legislature. A governor is only as effective as she or he is in getting the legislature to adopt his or her policies. Even though there was hardly a decent objection to Gov. Malloy's Second Chance reforms in criminal justice, he had a devil of a time getting them through the legislature, and some didn't make it. When it came to budget negotiations, he was completely shut out.
But the governor's seat isn't the only one up for grabs. The entire General Assembly is back on the ballot, and there's a fair chance a lot of incumbents could see their political careers come to an end. Some candidates will frame this as a referendum on Donald Trump and national issues, but it isn't. The Connecticut General Assembly's first order of business — not its last, its first — is to straighten out the state's finances. Every single legislator has to be aware of that. That's their duty.
And the governor will be charged with leading this bunch. That's the biggest challenge.
The state will again be facing a multi-billion dollar deficit in coming years, and while some reasonable changes have been made, much more needs to be done.
This is going to be a long campaign. We don't need vitriol designed to rile up the basest of the base. We need clear talk on the the state's economy, a sober and nonpartisan assessment of the problems and a clear plan — a campaign of actual ideas instead of vacuous platitudes.
The basic pledge that all candidates must make, regardless of party affiliation, is to work hard for the public good, not for their own ambitions or for their political party. If they're not willing to make that pledge, they shouldn't run.