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Hartford - Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy hasn't announced his re-election plans, but potential Republican challengers are lining up to contend for the party's endorsement at the upcoming May convention.
Shortly before Christmas, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti filed paperwork to form a gubernatorial campaign committee. He joined Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, of Fairfield, who formed a committee in July. Both are collecting the necessary small contributions to quality for public campaign financing.
Candidates for governor must raise $250,000 in contributions of $100 or less in order to participate in the program. Ultimately, they can receive at least $1.25 million for a primary and $6 million for the general election.
Meanwhile, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton scheduled a news conference today to announce his intentions. The recently re-elected mayor is expected to transition his exploratory committee into an official gubernatorial campaign committee.
A couple of other GOP candidates still have exploratory committees, including Tom Foley, the party's 2010 candidate, and Wilton state Sen. Toni Boucher.
"With the convention only four months away, we're reaching the point where our exploratory candidates need to begin the process of a conversion to full-fledged campaigns," Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. said Tuesday.
Joseph Visconti, of West Hartford, and Gordon Ward, of Manchester, have also filed paperwork as Republican candidates for governor with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.
All the potential Republican candidates have made the state's economy a key issue and consider it one of Malloy's vulnerabilities.
"The voters know that the Democrats can't fix Connecticut's economic problems. After all, it's their policies which have led to our no-growth, last-place standing," said Labriola, adding that Democrats currently control the General Assembly and all constitutional offices. "It's time to give Republicans a chance. Let us fix it."
James Hallinan, a spokesman for the Connecticut Democrats, acknowledged the 2014 election, like the 2010 race, will be close. But he contends the Republican candidate will have a difficult time trying to sell the state's voters on returning a Republican to the governor's office.
"I would ask Chairman Labriola who the governors were before Governor Malloy and what party they were from, and remind him it was the Republican rule that drove Connecticut's economy into the ditch," Hallinan said.
He credits Malloy with adding thousands of private sector jobs during his tenure, cutting state spending and reducing the size of government.
"We've made progress under Governor Malloy, but folks want more progress and we're moving in the right direction under the Democratic administration," Hallinan said.
Lauretti, however, criticizes Malloy's programs, which have doled out tens of millions of dollars to lure or keep companies in Connecticut.
"I think it's a sad commentary if the only way we can keep big business in this state is by paying them to stay here," said Lauretti, who said he opposes programs like Malloy's so-called "First Five" initiative. "I am for lowering the cost of doing business in the entire state so everyone becomes a recipient."
Lauretti, who is currently serving his 23rd year as mayor, has considered running for governor in the past, but ultimately stepped aside and let others run. This is the first time the former restaurant owner has taken the formal step of creating a candidate committee.
"I think it's the right time for someone like me in the condition that the state's in because this is what I do best," he said.