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Groton Town Councilor Heather Bond Somers not only emerged from the state Republican convention as a strong candidate for lieutenant governor, but one with the potential to influence how the race for governor plays out.
Councilor Somers, a businesswoman and former Town of Groton mayor, finished a strong second at the convention with 32 percent of the delegate support, more than double the total necessary to force a primary. More significantly, the candidate who finished first with 51 percent left the convention as damaged goods.
State Rep. Penny Bacchiochi of Stafford earned plenty of pre-convention publicity, but not for good reason. Rep. Bacchiochi charged that the campaign of David Walker, a former U.S. Comptroller General and another lieutenant governor contender, was trying to peel off her delegate support by using the race card - her husband is black.
Rep. Bacchiochi provided no evidence. Mr. Walker called it an "outrageous, unethical and unfounded personal attack." Rep. Bacchiochi then recanted and apologized. "Neither Dave Walker nor his campaign made any insensitive remarks toward me or my family."
Such behavior and poor judgment should cause concern among Republican voters. The ability of a lieutenant governor to help the ticket is limited, but the potential to drag the ticket down due to embarrassing missteps is significant. So far, Councilor Somers has been rock solid.
Now she faces a tough decision.
Councilor Somers came into the race aligned with gubernatorial candidate Mark Boughton, the Danbury mayor. It was a pairing offering geographical and gender balance.
But it will be Republican primary voters who ultimately choose the ticket based on their Aug. 12 choices for governor and lieutenant governor.
Expectation in the Boughton camp is that he and Councilor Somers will pool contributions to reach the $250,000 requirement (in donations of $100 or less) he needs to obtain $1.4 million in public financing for the primary. As of April 10, he had raised $121,000.
Councilor Somers has raised about $57,000, so together they are close. Here is the catch. Going it alone, she need only raise $75,000 to qualify for $406,275 during the primary, money she can focus on her campaign and not on boosting Mayor Boughton. Yet that choice could leave Mayor Boughton in tough shape.
Since whoever wins the lieutenant governor primary is likely to end up running with Tom Foley, the convention's choice for governor and the party's candidate in 2010, Somers will have to seriously consider doing what is best for Somers. In any event, it's fun to have a southeastern Connecticut leader in the thick of it.