An exultant Lamont: ‘I’m happy to join the governors’ club’

Hartford — Edward Miner Lamont Jr., an unlikely Democratic standard bearer as a wealthy Greenwich businessman whose family tree includes titans of Wall Street and a left-wing philosopher, took office Wednesday as the 89th governor of Connecticut, a state buoyed by great wealth but burdened by decades of fiscal mismanagement.

Lamont, 65, who once told his local paper he looks like a Republican and thinks like a Democrat, faces the challenge of delivering on a campaign that promised a blend of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism to a populace worried by successive years of budget deficits and one of the nation's biggest unfunded pension liabilities.

His took the oath from his friend, former Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers of the Connecticut Supreme Court, reaching the pinnacle of state politics after losing statewide races for U.S. Senate in 2006 and governor in 2010. At his side was Annie Huntress Lamont, his wife of 35 years and a successful venture capitalist.

On stage were his three children: Emily, 31; Lindsay, 27 and Teddy, 25.

Watching from the front of the vast drill shed in the William A. O'Neill Armory were three of his four living predecessors: Democrat Dannel P. Malloy, Republican M. Jodi Rell and Lowell P. Weicker Jr., an independent who gamely made his way on a walker. Missing was the twice-convicted Republican John G. Rowland.

"I'm happy to join the governors' club," Lamont said. To Malloy, he noted, "You've only been an ex governor for about 30 seconds, but we have something in common — that's we've been in the arena, and to paraphrase my favorite president, Teddy Roosevelt, the credit belongs not to the critic on the sidelines, but to the men and women in the arena."

Lamont had one final delay before taking office. His oath followed those administered to his running mates: Attorney General William Tong, Comptroller Kevin Lembo, Treasurer Shawn Wooden and Secretary of the State Denise Merrill. Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz took office in the morning, so she could preside over the Senate.

Ned Lamont is the first Connecticut Democrat in more than a century to succeed another Democratic governor in an open race, an unexpected first, given that Malloy left office as one of the most unpopular governors in the U.S.

Lamont struck a light tone in his brief inaugural remarks, knowing he would deliver a more substantive State of the State Address to a joint session of the General Assembly by day's end.

The Rev. Ralph Ahlberg, his former pastor at Round Hill Community Church in Greenwich and a one-time tennis partner, told the audience of 1,200 that Lamont was a man of integrity, a tennis player who fairly called the lines.

Ahlberg's presence gave Lamont an opening to note he was a something of a political oddity, the Democrat from Greenwich, long an icon of wealth and the Republican establishment, even if it recently elected local Democrats to the state House and Senate.

Lamont recalled the day Ahlberg presented the Lamonts and another new couple to the congregation, giving a little background on each. One was a Lutheran, another a Greek Orthodox, and Annie was the Episcopalian. "'Ned, he's a Democrat!' The congregation thought that was pretty funny."

He mentioned recently watching the rap musical "Hamilton" with an audience of high school children at the Bushnell in Hartford, then talking to them about the meaning of the song, "My Shot." Alexander Hamilton sings about being an immigrant with great opportunities, just like his new nation, Lamont said.

"That's what I love about America. Every generation, we get a chance to reinvent ourselves, and every election gives us a fresh start," Lamont said. "This is our chance to reinvent Connecticut — to think big, act boldly."

Lamont said he and the legislature must strive to move beyond the endless budget fights.

"I will not allow our next four years to be defined by a fiscal crisis. Together we will craft an honestly balanced budget which does not borrow from the future, but invests in the future," Lamont said. "We owe our kids, our extended family, nothing less."

Mark Pazniokas is a reporter for The Connecticut Mirror (www.ctmirror.org). Copyright 2019 © The Connecticut Mirror.

mpazniokas@ctmirror.org

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