Linares joins wide-open field exploring bid for statewide office

Vowing to knock on some 16,000 doors across Connecticut over the next three months, state Sen. Art Linares, the Westbrook Republican whose district includes Lyme and part of Old Saybrook, announced this week that he’s considering running for a statewide office next year.

Early next year, he said, he’ll declare which one.

On Wednesday, Linares registered an “exploratory committee” with the State Elections Enforcement Commission, a step that will enable him to raise campaign donations regardless of the office he decides to pursue. He said he intends to accept donations of no more than $100 apiece.

The statewide offices up for election in 2018 are governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of the state, treasurer and comptroller.

In a phone interview Friday, the 29-year-old Linares said the lieutenant governor’s office is “of interest” to him. While he’s making up his mind, he said, he plans to knock on 100 doors in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities to find out what residents are most concerned about.

“We knocked on about 10,000 doors in my first Senate race,” he said.

That was in 2012, when Linares, then 24, became the second-youngest senator ever elected in Connecticut and the first Republican in 20 years to land the 33rd District seat. He’s since won re-election twice, both times by double-digit margins, and is currently the youngest member of the Senate.

Linares and state Rep. Caroline Simmons, a Stamford Democrat, got married Oct. 14, postponing their honeymoon until the state’s budget impasse was resolved.

While many believe 2018 figures to be an exceptionally good year for Republican candidacies in Connecticut, the results of this week’s local elections, in which Democrats gained ground, suggested otherwise.

“I think it will be a good year for any candidate who wants to present new ideas on how to improve Connecticut — regardless of party,” Linares said. “Our slogan is ‘A new way of thinking for a new Connecticut.’ No matter what party you are, people want to see the state turned around. They want it to be more business-friendly and they want to see us reform the way we train our workforce so students can leave high school and college and move right into jobs. We need apprenticeships.”

Linares recently sold his interest in Greenskies Renewable Energy, the Middletown-based solar power company he founded from the basement of his parents’ home in 2008.

Acknowledging his campaign’s relatively late start, Linares said he felt it was his duty to see the state budget process through before announcing his interest in statewide office. Dozens of candidates have formed committees to explore runs for office in 2018, filings with the State Elections Enforcement Commission show. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s announcement in April that he would not seek a third term opened the floodgates for those with gubernatorial aspirations.

“I think a majority in the state want a new outlook for Connecticut. That’s why you’re seeing so many candidates,” Linares said. “That’s what’s so great about this country. My father left Cuba in 1966, where they didn’t allow free elections. Thankfully, here, as many people who want to run can.”

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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