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Democrats should plan for a Lamont successor

I am pretty confident in supposing that the last thing Republican state Sen. Heather Somers thinks about before closing her eyes at night is the same thing on her mind when she opens them every morning: Her dream of being governor.

Her ambition fills a room when she walks in.

Rep. Themis Klarides and Sen. Len Fasano, Republican minority leaders in the Connecticut House and Senate, may share the same dream. But they are unlikely to abandon their sniper posts in Hartford for the uncertain slog in the Time of Trump to try to win the governor's mansion and its responsibilities.

But there is no shortage of other likely GOP candidates for the 2022 governor's race, including, of course, the 2018 standard bearer, Bob Stefanowski, a former payday lender with a campaign promise — to eliminate the personal income tax, the state's principal source of revenue — so preposterous most candidates in his party didn't want to acknowledge it, let alone embrace it.

It will surely be another crowded GOP field, with the scent of an unpopular Democratic governor in the air. And maybe, if Connecticut Republicans running for state office are really lucky, Trump will be gone from the White House and just a bad memory for Connecticut independents.

The incumbent Democrat, of course, should ordinarily have a leg up in securing his own party's nomination for reelection. But one might hope by then that Ned Lamont will understand himself how unqualified and unsuited he is to be governor.

He must already be frustrated with how little he can get done. Maybe by then he will be bored, too, and ready to go back to his inherited, cossetted ease in Greenwich. You can already tell he looks put upon, like he's being made to work too hard.

But Democrats should be on guard that this self-realization is probably unlikely.

Really, the wreckage of the Lamont governorship should keep piling up and by then make it easy for Democrats to give him a shove off the stage. Even the reelection prospects of the unpopular Gov. Dan Malloy did not seem so bleak this early in his first term.

The tolls debacle on its own is a pretty clear guide to how badly the Lamont governorship, unable to even communicate with the Democratic legislative majority, let along lead it, has run off the rails.

The only real consummated deal to date for the governor who promised a debt diet and the end to corporate welfare is a giant corporate giveaway to both a Connecticut utility that isn't going anywhere, with or without a Connecticut subsidy, and a rich Danish conglomerate that already has promised to homeport its new American wind business in Rhode Island.

Lamont has nevertheless promised to cover all future cost overruns for the $157 million deal to rebuild State Pier in New London, with new overruns already clocking in at some $60 million since summer. I suspect that the private parties to the deal might be happy anyway if it never happens, with the New Haven port operator successfully shutting the competing State Pier in New London and wind giant Ørsted keeping its competitors out of the port for good while working from Rhode Island.

The pier deal provides no compensation for New London, and Lamont has, incredibly, left Mayor Passero on his own, without leverage, to negotiate one. There is still none.

Eastern Connecticut should be equally insulted by the kick in the shins Lamont last week gave the Mashantucket Pequots, one of the region's largest employers and a major contributor to the state budget.

I don't mind that the governor might not want to give the gaming tribes all they want in the expansion of gambling, or any of it for that matter. But the governor, full of both arrogance and incompetence, wouldn't even sit at the table and negotiate with them, choosing instead to pursue a doomed legislative plan that the Pequots say would lead to their stopping annual slot payments.

Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler was apparently so shocked by this monumental snub by the governor, to not even meet while they asked for months to sit down, he issued a news release in complaint.

Eastern Connecticut, treated so badly by this governor from the land of hedge funds, should work hard to help Democrats find someone to replace him.

Because of term limits, Gov. Gina Raimondo can't run for reelection in Rhode Island, where she has accomplished all the things Gov. Lamont can only talk about: pension reform, tolls and sports betting.

I have a spare room if she would consider moving to Connecticut and running for governor here. I'm quite sure she wouldn't insult the people of New London and the thousands of employees of our two tribal casinos the way our incompetent governor from Greenwich has.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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