Could Nancy Wyman become Connecticut's Hillary?

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman accepts the nomination for Democratic candidate for Lt. Gov at the Connecticut Democratic Convention, Friday, May 16, 2014, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman accepts the nomination for Democratic candidate for Lt. Gov at the Connecticut Democratic Convention, Friday, May 16, 2014, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

When I stopped a voter Tuesday on her way inside the Baltic Fire Department and asked what she thought about Gov. Dannel Malloy's performance in office, it took an excruciatingly long time to elicit an answer.

I could tell this was a loyal Democrat who did not want to be critical. And yet she couldn't seem to find any words of praise.

"He tried to do the right thing," she finally offered up. Ouch.

And yet I would have to agree.

The well-intentioned former mayor of Stamford has tried his best to referee competing interests: taxpayers, state employees and their powerful unions, businesses, the disadvantaged, struggling cities.

Seeking a bridge to new economic development and prosperity, Malloy sought a path forward that involved what he once characterized as shared sacrifice.

I think the budget breakdown this year and the legislature's final end-around the governor gave Malloy a lasting failing grade. I will remember the budget battle mostly for his shameful scare-mongering press conference at the University of Connecticut at Avery Point, when he warned, unreasonably, out of petty political expediency, that Republicans were going to force a shutdown of that campus.

Lawmakers of both parties finally found consensus and a passed a budget without the governor.

If Malloy had not already declined to run for another term as governor, this budget cycle would have killed any chance of success he might have expected.

Now that Tuesday's voting has shown that Connecticut voters are itching to express outrage at the toxic Republican morass in Washington, an administration of billionaires, protected by enablers in Congress and gunning for the entitlements and safety nets for the middle class and poor, the path for a Democrat in the wide-open Connecticut gubernatorial race seems like a straight shot.

Another voter, so outraged by the only thinly veiled racism of preserve-the-statues, build-a-wall GOP Trumpists, told me Tuesday he will never vote for another Republican again.

I worry, though, the fix may already be in among the Connecticut Democratic establishment to get behind Nancy Wyman, Malloy's hyper-loyal deputy, the two-term lieutenant governor, as their candidate.

This could be the one certain way to lose what has become a clear competitive advantage in 2018 for Democrats, packaging up and trying to sell all the Malloy baggage with a Wyman label.

Let's be honest. There is no way to separate the two. Wyman as a gubernatorial candidate is Malloy 2.0.

Barely an inch has separated them on a single issue or policy throughout these two terms. Putting up a Malloy surrogate could be the one way Democrats find a way to lose.

After all, the same Connecticut Democratic establishment unwisely closed ranks around Hillary Clinton when it was obvious that Bernie Sanders, like Trump, had a better fix on the malaise of voters looking for change.

The good thing for Connecticut Democrats is that the Connecticut Republican establishment has never put down its Trump pom poms, even though it was obvious that the chaotic atmosphere and mean spiritedness of the administration in Washington was not going to play well even with Yankee conservatives here in Connecticut.

Former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, the last Connecticut Republican to eke out a Washington legislative seat, saw this early in the arc of Trumpism, but was drowned out by the fawning praise from lawmakers like Themis Klarides, House minority leader, and our own state Sen. Art Linares of Westbrook.

I hope Klarides runs for governor, putting her Trump loyalty to a statewide voter test. And good luck, too, to Linares as he admits to casting about for a statewide office for which he can run.

I believe Democrats can hit a home run in 2018, especially as Trump campaign treason comes into sharper focus with more charges from the Russia investigation. But this will happen only if they manage to dump the Malloy baggage.

Please, anyone but Wyman, who may be an exceptional candidate but who will never be able to step out of the dark Malloy shadow, even in her trademark tippy high heels.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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