For Oz & Monte, it comes down to money

If over the next 10 months voters get to know the R. Nelson “Oz” Griebel/Monte Frank ticket for governor/lieutenant governor, the two independent candidates will give the major party candidates, whoever they may be, a serious challenge.

But that’s a big-time if.

At a time when many voters are turned off by the highly partisan nature of the current political scene, Griebel and Frank could provide an attractive alternative.

Griebel knows business and politics. He recently retired as director of the MetroHartford (business) Alliance. In 2010, he sought the Republican nomination to run for governor, finishing third in a three-way race in which Republicans selected businessman Tom Foley to be their candidate. Foley subsequently lost to Democrat Dannel P. Malloy. Foley then lost a rematch in 2014.

While The Day gave its endorsement in that 2010 Republican primary to Foley, it also praised Griebel. The editorial pointed to his honesty. While emphasizing his priority would be cutting spending, Griebel would not rule out installation of highway tolls and increased taxes as a way of paying for transportation infrastructure needs and closing a massive budget deficit.

That 2010 editorial noted Griebel’s strong grasp of policy. He formerly served as chairman of the Transportation Strategy Board. The editorial urged whoever won the gubernatorial election, assuming it was not Griebel, to add him to the administration. Malloy did not take us up on the advice.

Monte Frank, a Newtown resident, is a recent past president of the Connecticut Bar Association. In the wake of the massacre that claimed the lives of 20 students and six educators at Sandy Hook School, Frank became a gun-control advocate.

In a recent guest commentary, Frank described himself as a life-long Democrat (until now) who strongly believes in “social justice reform and protecting our most vulnerable.”

Griebel left the Republican Party and Frank cut his ties to the Democratic Party to make their independent run.

They have a great slogan: “No parties. No politics. Just Solutions.”

They have yet to detail the solutions, but it’s early. And there will be politics. Still, it’s a good slogan for an independent ticket.

Another thing this unusual ticket has going for it is that no frontrunners have emerged from a very large field of Democratic and Republican candidates. The longer the parties take to sort that out, the more time Griebel/Frank will have to make their case that voters should abandon the party candidates and go independent. Republicans and Democrats have their nominating conventions in May and their primaries in August.

A Tremont Public Advisors LLC poll conducted in mid-December found a generic Republican candidate beating a generic Democratic candidate — 35 percent to 23 percent, but with 42 percent undecided. Turn a substantial portion of that 42 percent from undecided to independent and we have a competitive three-way race.

Then there is that name, “Oz.” A good marketer should be able to get that to stick in voters’ minds.

But that leaves the big problem of money, which, unless you’re named Trump, is necessary to get your political brand out there.

Unfair rules make it close to impossible for third-party and independent candidates to qualify for public financing under the Citizens’ Election Program. Meanwhile, the candidates chosen by the major parties can qualify for up to $6.5 million.

This means Griebel and Frank will have to raise money in the traditional way, by finding donors to invest in their campaign. Convincing folks to invest in independent long shots will be a challenge.

But if they can get the money rolling in and a bipartisan message rolling out, this could get interesting.

Paul Choiniere is the editorial page editor.



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