17 January 2009
Former Speaker of the House Jim Amann is ramping up a run for Governor. He's sent no less than five e-messages to Democratic leaders over the last month.
They reflect a hectic schedule and agenda: advocacy for more "Hollywood East" state tax credits (before the Democratic caucus even considers it), an invitation to his portrait unveiling, another invitation to a charity fundraiser and finally news of a January 29th announcement in Bridgeport when he will make his gubernatorial intentions known.
Now comes the news that Amann's plate gets fuller with the appointment to be a senior advisor to the House Democratic leadership. It's just too much and foretells that Amann's gubernatorial run is likely to end very quickly after it leaves the dock.
Putting aside this highly problematic assignment for the moment, too many political factors mitigate against the ex-Speaker getting any traction in the race for Governor in 2010.
For one thing history is just not on Amann's side. Ex-Speaker Ernest Abate, a downstate lawmaker from the 1980s, sought the Governorship without success. More recently, Senate Majority Leader George Jepson, a capable and effective legislative leader, did not survive the 2004 state convention and accepted the lieutenant governor nomination, earning creds for party service and a future run for statewide office. State lawmakers have fared much better moving up the political ladder by seeking a seat in Congress (a young John Rowland, Chris Murphy in 2006) or a constitutional office (Comptroller Nancy Wyman, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, Attorney General Dick Blumenthal, all of whom came out of the Legislature).
Amann also lost considerable credibility in 2006 when he endorsed the independent run of Joe Lieberman for re-election after Ned Lamont became the Democratic nominee. The progressive faction of the party that lifted up Lamont cannot be easily dismissed in putting together a winning strategy for the nomination for Governor.
And finally Amann comes up against a deep and qualified bench among Democrats who would be Governor and have a measure of statewide exposure already. Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy has all but announced, having gained statewide experience and support in a 2006 bid that ultimately went to New Haven's John DeStefano. Secretary Bysiewicz, respected for her campaign skills and reaping kudos for the Democratic surge in enrollment last year, may be looking again toward the corner office. There's also Comptroller Wyman whose frequent and depressing pronouncements on the deficit give her creds as a knowledegeable office holder on the budget for very tough fiscal times. And have I mentioned Dick Blumenthal? All of the above except Amann would step aside for him in the unlikely event that he gets a case of gubernatorial fever. Don't count on it.
To his credit the affable Amann rose to become Speaker among the sometimes discordant factions of a growing Democratic Caucus during an 18-year legislative career. His story of overcoming a serious illness is a compelling and inspiring one. He's a hard guy not to like.
But the ex-Speaker is not coming from a position that elevates his prospects based on history and the political realities within the Democratic Party. His new policy role in the employ of House Democrats cannot possibly help his ambitions either. If there is one thing they teach at campaign school: you need to be fully committed to run for the better part of two years.
It's a good bet that he will be the earliest to leave the gubernatorial race even before the aforementioned others enter it