Bysiewicz's last hurrah? Or a restart?
This is Susan Bysiewicz’s last chance. In the Aug. 14 Democratic primary, the endorsed candidate for lieutenant governor, a seasoned politician who has run for several offices, faces upstart Eva Bermudez Zimmerman, who has never run for any.
I cannot imagine any future political comeback if Bysiewicz loses. At age 56, she will be politically radioactive. And radiation contamination persists. The party won’t want to touch her.
But if she wins, Bysiewicz could remain on a path for a position she has long sought — governor. If, as I fully expect, Ned Lamont wins his primary, they would become the Democratic ticket. And if Lamont wins the general election, Bysiewicz becomes lieutenant governor, a great position from which to launch a future bid for governor.
Heck, if something happens to Ned while in office — something Bysiewicz keeps reminding folks is a distinct possibility — she could become governor sooner!
Since 1945, she noted, six lieutenant governors have had to take over because a governor could not complete his or her term. So who knows what might befall Ned?
Experience, said Bysiewicz when she sat down with me Thursday, is something voters must seriously consider. She has it, Bysiewicz said. Zimmerman, 31, does not. Who do you want to answer the phone when the governor gets a 3 a.m. call about an impending snowstorm?
Yet experience did not seem to impress the party faithful gathered for the convention. Lamont, their overwhelming choice for governor, had invited Bysiewicz to be his running mate, in the process getting her to drop her own bid for governor. But instead of anointing Lamont’s choice, the delegates gave 40 percent of their support to Zimmerman, whose candidacy came seemingly out of nowhere.
The strong showing gave the union activist from the Bernie Sanders wing of the party instant credibility.
But when we met, Bysiewicz was feeling good. The internal polling she has seen “looks excellent,” she said. Her first commercial was on TV, a feel-good ad featuring her work as a business attorney helping to get a small high-tech business up and running. Zimmerman, who only last week qualified for public campaign financing, is playing catch up.
If primary voters back the endorsed ticket, Bysiewicz could well be an asset to Lamont, a self-funded millionaire businessman who has never held an office higher than selectman. She served three terms in the state legislature and three terms as secretary of state.
In 2010, Bysiewicz made a disastrous decision to abandon her run for governor and switch to the attorney generals’ race when Richard Blumenthal left that office to run for U.S. Senate. Her candidacy ended when the state Supreme Court ruled she did not meet the state constitutional requirements for attorney general.
Bysiewicz ran for U.S. Senate in 2012, losing in a primary to Chris Murphy.
Enemies made along the way in these repeated efforts to win an office, any office, have hurt her standing within the party’s hardcore ranks.
But redemption could await Aug. 14.
What if she wins and Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim knocks off Lamont? Ganim, infamously, spent seven years in federal prison for corrupt behavior during his first stint as mayor of Bridgeport. A few years after his release, the people elected him mayor again. Now he wants to be govermor. It’s crazy.
“I don’t think Joe Ganim is going to win the primary,” Bysiewicz said when asked about a Ganim-Bysiewicz ticket. “If he does, I guess I’ll rethink my career choices.”
Pressed on the point — would she abandon the race? — Bysiewicz took a pass.
“I’m not really thinking about it,” she said, confident that Lamont will win Aug. 14.
Paul Choiniere is the editorial page editor.
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