Somers looks at her options in lieutenant governor race

Lieutenant governor candidate Heather Bond Somers is considering her options — a run with gubernatorial candidate and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, a split from him to run separately, not to run at all or to form an alliance with another gubernatorial candidate.

She has 14 days from the close of last Saturday’s Republican State Convention to file her paperwork to run in the likely Republican primary in August.

“There is a lot of speculation about what is going on,” Somers said. “I am still making my decision on what I am going to do, and when that decision is made, it will be what I feel is best for the Connecticut Republican party and the state of Connecticut, and I haven’t made that decision.”

Somers, a former Groton mayor and current Town Council member, joined the race in January at the invitation of Boughton to join his ticket.

Neither won the endorsement of the Republican
state convention, but each of them earned a large enough percentage of the votes cast to qualify to seek a primary.

If Somers, who has raised nearly enough to run for lieutenant governor on her own, remains paired with Boughton and combines her funds with his, Boughton’s campaign would benefit financially. As of April 10, Somers had raised a larger percentage of the funds she needs than he had.

“Heather and Mark Boughton are in different races and must compete independently to win a primary,” said Tom Foley, the Republican-endorsed gubernatorial candidate, in a written statement Wednesday. “To agree to campaign together as a team is one thing, which it seems they agreed to and did. But to agree to combine their campaigns financially, which means Heather would give up her contributions and a grant so Mark can qualify for public financing, wouldn’t really make sense for Heather.”

In January, Boughton announced that he had chosen Somers as his running mate. A gubernatorial candidate must raise $250,000 from contributions of $100 or less in order to obtain $1.4 million in public financing for a primary, and $6 million in public financing for the general election. A lieutenant governor candidate who is running solo must raise $75,000 to qualify for $406,275 in public financing for a primary.

At this time, Boughton and Somers have not filed paperwork for a joint fundraising committee, and their campaign funds are separate.

As of April 10, Boughton had raised $121,000, less than half of what he needed to qualify for public financing. Somers had at that time raised $56,760, or more than two-thirds of what she would need.

To run for lieutenant governor, Somers must compete in the Republican primary, whether she has an alliance with Boughton or not. Ultimately, the winners of the gubernatorial primary and the lieutenant governor primary will be paired for the general election ticket.

“I have got to know Heather on the campaign trail,” Foley said. “Some time ago, she told me there was no agreement to combine financially with Mark. She would not have had any reason to be dishonest with me about that, and she strikes me as an extremely straightforward and honest person. I am certain that she believes there was never an agreement made with Mark to combine their campaigns financially.”

Boughton, who did not return calls from The Day on Wednesday, told the Connecticut Post that he and Somers have an agreement, “and I expect she’ll hold to her agreement.”

Foley said, “With something as consequential as combining financially, if there was an agreement to do so, it would be pretty naïve to not get it in writing. So if there is nothing in writing, I think a reasonable person would conclude there was no agreement between them on a financial combination.”

Somers would not discuss her candidacy in detail on Wednesday.

“I have a lot on my mind. I have a lot of decisions to make, and again, whatever that decision is, in my opinion, it will be what is best for the Connecticut Republican party and the state moving forward,” Somers said.

There could be three-way primary races for governor and lieutenant governor because three candidates for each position collected at least 15 percent of the Republican delegates’ votes.

At the convention on Saturday, delegates gave Foley, who lost narrowly to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy four years ago, 57.18 percent of the vote. The other Republican gubernatorial candidates who met the 15 percent threshold were Boughton (22.25 percent) and state Sen. John McKinney, R-Fairfield (17.72 percent).

State Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, R-Stafford Springs, won the endorsement with 51 percent of the vote to run for lieutenant governor. Somers came in second with 32 percent. Former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker, whom McKinney recently picked as his running mate, also qualified. Others who didn’t reach 15 percent of the vote may petition to be on the primary election ballot.

As of Wednesday, none of the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor who qualify for a primary based on the 15 percent threshold had filed paperwork to participate in the primary.

Bacchiochi’s candidacy has been marked thus far by a “misunderstanding” between her and Walker. Earlier this month, on WTIC-AM radio Bacchiochi said her opponent had negatively attacked her because her husband and four stepsons are black. Walker demanded an apology and said, “No responsible person, much less any responsible public elected official, would make this completely false accusation. Penny Bacchiochi should be ashamed of herself and should apologize for her actions.”

Bacchiochi apologized the next day and said, “I regret that this misunderstanding occurred and has taken the focus away from what is really important, electing a Republican governor and lieutenant governor.”

j.somers@theday.com

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