David Stemerman, 48, of Greenwich, a successful investment fund manager, announced the other day that he is closing his fund and planning to become a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor.
Those who hope for change in state government’s direction may be forgiven for thinking: Not again. For Connecticut’s minority party has an unfortunate habit of giving major nominations to candidates whose main qualification seems to be just their having enough money to finance their own campaigns.
Now that Connecticut’s program of government financing of campaigns for state office is in doubt because of the state budget mess, a candidate’s ability to finance his own campaign may seem more important to Republicans, especially since their legislators, considering it an extravagance, are the ones who want to do away with the Citizens’ Election Program. But from multimillionaire Brook Johnson’s campaign for U.S. senator in 1992 to multimillionaire Linda McMahon’s campaigns for U.S. senator in 2010 and 2012 to multimillionaire Tom Foley’s campaigns for governor in 2010 and 2014, Connecticut’s Republican Party has failed, even when political circumstances were highly favorable.
As it turned out, campaign money wasn’t nearly enough. Candidates also need a record in Connecticut’s public life and some knowledge of the state and its government, and those self-funding Republican candidates didn’t have it. Worse, they didn’t care to learn, and it showed embarrassingly.
In a letter to his fund’s investors disclosing his political ambition, Stemerman tried to take the edge off his wealth. “I am deeply concerned that a small number of people in our state are thriving while many are struggling to make ends meet,” he wrote. He also tried to make a virtue of his political inexperience: “I do not claim to have all the answers, but as an outsider with a fresh perspective, I believe that I can bring a different approach.”
“All” the answers? Even one might be nice.
Of course someone without a record in the state’s public life has as much right as anyone else to run for governor and may have valuable insights. But since Stemerman has no record, only a lot of money, Republicans and others who want political change in Connecticut should be concerned about what may be discovered about him by the opposition shortly before the election. That sort of thing badly damaged the candidacies of McMahon and Foley.
The Republicans already have a few potential candidates for governor who, while possessing no special wealth, at least have records and an idea of the state’s problems. Whether they have the courage to speak about these problems as the state’s sad circumstances require remains to be seen, but in any case the worst disaster that could befall Connecticut next year would be another self-funding ignoramus.
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Puerto Ricans long have been citizens: Since many Connecticut residents are from Puerto Rico or have family there, the damage done to the island by the recent terrible hurricanes has been big news here. But it would be nice if journalists interviewing local Puerto Ricans stopped saying that so-and-so “came to the United States from the island,” as if today’s Puerto Ricans are or ever were foreigners.
They’re not. They’re Americans. The United States seized Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War and federal law conferred citizenship on Puerto Ricans in 1917, if only because Congress wanted to make more men eligible for the military draft in World War I.
Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.