Is this the right race for Formica?

I have to admit, I didn't see it coming -- Formica for Congress.

If there was to be a political announcement coming from East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica I would have anticipated a challenge to incumbent Democratic state Sen. Andrea Stillman in the 20th District. That would be one heck of a race. Stillman would have run strong in New London, but Formica could have eroded her Waterford support and done well in the other district towns — Montville, Bozrah, Salem, Old Lyme and, of course, East Lyme, where he is a popular leader. Republicans, barring a surprise, are expected to nominate Michael F. Doyle of New London, the former director of the Governor's Eastern Connecticut Office. Formica would have been the stronger candidate.

Instead this past weekend Formica announced he will ask Republicans to nominate him next Friday to take on the incumbent Democratic U.S. congressman, Rep. Joe Courtney, in the Second Congressional District. Formica could be headed for a primary against Madison businesswomen Daria Novak, who has been running for the nomination for months.

Formica tells The Day he decided to run after Republican state Rep. Chris Coutu dropped out of the congressional race to go after the 19th District state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Edith Prague, a move that this blogger last week called a sound political move by Coutu.

Formica is too astute not to know what a tremendous uphill battle he faces in taking on a strong incumbent in a large congressional district, particularly entering the race at this last date. Establishing name recognition alone is a tough challenge in the Second, consisting of the eastern half of Connecticut. Courtney will be in a position to vastly outspend who ever is the Republican nominee.

Most telling was Formica's comments that he had been contemplating a run for Congress in 2014, but Coutu's departure speeded up his decision by two years. My guess is that while Formica realizes he is not likely to win this time, he knows the campaign will provide him the opportunity to generate name recognition in the district, build a list of potential donors, and learn from the experience before perhaps making a more serious run in 2014.

But I still would have liked to have seen that Formica vs. Stillman race.

It has been a surprising year for local politics and based on some of the speculation I hear, there could be more surprises to come.


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