Deeply unpopular Gov. Dan Malloy (D) has announced he will not seek a third term.
Although it’s usually harder for an opposition party to defeat an incumbent than claim an open seat, this move is actually a relief for Democrats. Malloy underperformed the top of the ticket in each of his two narrow victories, and is the face of the state’s unpopular tax hikes and continued economic struggles. A poll from earlier this week showed Malloy with some of the worst approval numbers in the country at 29/66–for context, about the same number as Sam Brownback in Kansas.
Malloy had been no sure bet to have won the Democratic nomination had he run–Middletown Mayor Dan Drew (D), a solid B-list candidate, had already set up an exploratory committee for a primary challenge. Now, Drew may be joined by any number of the state’s many prominent Democratic officeholders. Some candidates who have generated discussion are LG Nancy Wyman (D), AG George Jensen (D), Comptroller Kevin Lembo (D), New Haven Mayor Toni Harp (D), Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim (D), and State Sen. and Heir Force Col. Ted Kennedy Jr. (D). There’s also always the possibility one of the Congressional delegation, perhaps Rep. Joe Courtney (D) or Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D), gets tired of life in DC and explores a run.
Republicans are also expected to draw a crowded primary field. Three candidates are already running: Shelton (pop. 40,000) Mayor Mark Lauretti (R), State Rep. Prasad Srinivasan (R), and Coventry (pop. 12,000) councilman Micah Welintukonis (R). Two-time Malloy foe Tom Foley (R) is not expected to make a third bid, especially considering he performed worse in 2014 than 2010. There are also a number of Republicans who ran (and lost) for various statewide offices in 2014 who have been linked to the race, including Danbury (pop. 81,000) Mayor Mark Boughton (R), ex-State Sen. John McKinney (R), ex-US Comptroller General David Walker (R), Trumbull (pop. 36,000) First Selectman Tim Herbst (R), and attorney Peter Lumaj (R).
Given the unpopularity of Malloy’s administration and Connecticut’s quiet movement to the right in 2016 (the GOP tied the State Senate and move of the state outside of wealthy Fairfield County swung toward Trump), this remains a GOP pickup opportunity. But it’s a slightly less appealing one with Malloy out of the race, and it may now be several months before we have a sense of the primary fields.