Published January 28. 2014 11:00AM Updated January 28. 2014 11:55PM
Groton — Danbury Mayor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Boughton said he picked Heather Bond Somers as his running mate largely because of her experiences as a mayor and an entrepreneur.
A former Groton mayor and current council member, Somers will bring both a geographic and gender balance to the ticket, Boughton said Tuesday at the Hilton Garden Inn, where he announced Somers would seek the lieutenant governor seat as part of his team.
“She will bring a unique perspective as to what the challenges are of living here in the Second Congressional District,” said Boughton.
Boughton and Somers, also a Republican, first met last year. Somers said they connected as mayors on many of the issues municipalities face.
Somers said she views Groton as a microcosm of the state, demographically and socioeconomically.
“I think the combination of setting a budget, dealing with the only town that has a military base in town, we’re one of the only towns that has such diversity that 30 percent of our students are military, so we’re juggling a lot of different interests,” Somers said. “And I think being able to be successful there can only translate up in Hartford. That, coupled with my business experience, is a win-win.”
Boughton is one of several Republicans who have announced or made indications they plan to challenge Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in the November election. Malloy has not said whether or not he would seek a second term.
Somers, 47, is a Robert E. Fitch High School graduate who grew up in Groton and attended the University of Connecticut, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in economics. She is married with three children.
After a stint in the purchasing department at Electric Boat in the late 1980s, Somers co-founded Hydrofera LLC, a medical device manufacturing company in Willimantic that now has worldwide distribution. The company was recently purchased by Hollister Inc., and Somers said she has been working the company through the transition — traveling across the globe and meeting with distributors.
She said she plans to remain a member of the nine-member Town Council during the campaign.
“This is a blessed opportunity,” she said of her candidacy. “One of the main reasons I decided to do this is that I want my kids to stay in Connecticut. The way things are going, there’s not much hope for somebody getting out of school.”
Somers said she and Boughton were a good fit, having both come from working middle-class families and serving as mayors in their communities, albeit at different ends of the state. Boughton is a former high school teacher who is in his seventh term as mayor in Danbury.
“He gets it. He understands,” Somers said of Boughton. “He’s a real person, genuine.”
She described Connecticut’s government as “broken” — years of one-party rule in the state legislature have resulted in large tax increases due to “fiscally irresponsible policies,” she said.
“We’ve underfunded pensions, we borrow and spend money we don’t have, we’re drowning in debt,” she said.
With new leadership and the ingenuity of the state’s citizens, Somers said, “Connecticut can be repaired.”
“It’s not too late,” she said. “Help is on its way.”
Boughton said he and Somers will now travel the state to talk about the need to create an economic environment the state’s residents can be proud of, to balance the state budget and to put people back to work.
Following the morning announcement, the two made appearances at several locales, including Gaspar’s Restaurant in New London.
“Ambition, intelligence, political savvy and always looking to move forward — that’s Heather,” said Kevin Trejo, chairman of the Republican Town Committee in Groton. “She’s a determined person. She’s a businesswoman in the state. She cares about the community. She’s a fighter.
“They could do wonderful things,” he said of Boughton and Somers.
Seeing Somers in office would also go far in Hartford, he said, to increase visibility of southeastern Connecticut towns, which are often overlooked.
Somers said she has already received support from a diverse array of area residents.
“My phone has been ringing off the hook. Republicans, Democrats, independents and unaffiliated alike — I think people are pretty excited they’ll have a voice,” she said.