Somers explains split in race for lieutenant governor

New London — Lieutenant governor candidate and Groton Town Councilor Heather Bond Somers on Tuesday accused the state of missing economic opportunities in her town and explained why she split from the ticket of gubernatorial candidate Mark Boughton, the mayor of Danbury.

"Mark and I had a brief conversation about, 'Let's do this, OK this sounds great,' and the devil is always in the details," Somers said. "As the details became apparent - I did not sign this agreement to combine money."

Somers, who met with The Day's editorial board Tuesday, announced her candidacy when she was picked as Boughton's running mate on Jan. 28. But the partnership was cut short when she decided to go it alone five days after the Republican State Convention, where she collected a higher percentage of delegate votes in her lieutenant governor race than Boughton did in his gubernatorial race.

After the split, Boughton said he was disappointed because they had been working together since the first day. But he quickly linked up with Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, his new running mate. On Tuesday, Boughton and Lauretti submitted more than the 8,190 signatures required to get Lauretti on the lieutenant governor ballot. The petition awaits approval. If the two combine their finances, they likely will qualify for public financing.

Somers said she separated from the Boughton ticket because she realized as the campaign went on that if they combined their funds to obtain a public financing grant, she wouldn't get her own public financing to run. The election process really wasn't designed for joint tickets, she said, because each candidate ultimately has to run separately.

"I absolutely think that if I was a man, people would not be questioning this position, because if it was a man making this decision, it would have been the right leadership, the smart business thing and the correct decision. But when a woman sometimes makes these difficult decision, because they are not easy, they are painted as somebody who is calculating."

Somers is filing her public financing paperwork next week, she said.

Whoever is elected lieutenant governor will have constitutional duties such as presiding over the Senate, voting to break a tie and completing projects the governor assigns.

Somers said she has discussed with the three top GOP gubernatorial candidates - Boughton, Greenwich businessman Tom Foley and state Sen. John McKinney, R-Fairfield - her interest in having the lieutenant governor take on the role of business advocate, municipal advocate and health care advocate.

As a Groton official, Somers was part of the effort to find a new use for buildings Pfizer Inc. no longer wanted. Now Groton has a "million-square foot" Pfizer building coming down even though there had been several interested companies, she said. "I have been through that facility so many times, I can do the tour," she said.

There needs to be a direct point of contact - the lieutenant governor - in the governor's office for mayors and selectmen, she said, because there is only so much state lawmakers can do.

Somers said her executive experience - as a mayor and as co-founder of a manufacturing company - qualifies her to be lieutenant governor.

Somers co-founded Hydrofera LLC, a medical device manufacturing company in Willimantic that now has worldwide distribution. The company recently was purchased by Hollister Inc.

"I had conversations with two out of the six governor candidates that were considering running or were in the race already, and after speaking with them it was clear to me that they, too, agreed that my skill set would be advantageous to enter the race," she said.

She "really" entered the race because she wanted to make a change for Connecticut and felt that southeastern Connecticut had been underrepresented.

"I have the energy, I have the desire and I have nothing but wanting to do what is right for Connecticut, and I am going to take an opportunity when it presents itself to me, and the timing worked well with finishing out my job," she said.

Her opponents include state Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, R-Stafford Springs, and David Walker, who served as U.S. comptroller general for 10 years.

"What is really resonating with a lot of people is I am not a Hartford insider. I am not a Washington insider," Somers said. "If you are happy with the way Hartford is and with the way Washington is, you should vote for one of my opponents, because that is where they come from."

j.somers@theday.com

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