NEW BRITAIN - The Connecticut Republican convention didnâ€™t go as Mayor Erin Stewart had hoped.
On May 11, she dropped out of the gubernatorial race and announced her interest in the GOPâ€™s endorsement for lieutenant governor.
On May 12, she was defeated for that endorsement by state Sen. Joe Markley of Southington.
While she didnâ€™t win the lieutenant governor endorsement, Stewart got more than 26 percent of delegate votes, easily exceeding the 15 percent needed to qualify for the partyâ€™s primary on Aug. 14. She is now getting ready for a primary campaign.
â€śSince the convention, weâ€™ve kind of regrouped,â€ť Stewart told The Herald, adding she has reassembled her campaign team.
Stewart said that, even as she was running for governor, her goal was to qualify for the primary, not necessarily win the partyâ€™s endorsement.
Even that wasnâ€™t a guarantee, though.
â€śOur entire goal from the beginning was to make it through the convention, qualifying for the primary,â€ť Stewart said. â€śWhen we decided to drop to lieutenant governor, I knew that I was going against two candidates who had been running for the latter part of a year, so that wasnâ€™t going to be easy either. We had to come up with an 18-hour floor plan and delegate operation and execute in order to ensure that we were going to obtain that 15 percent.â€ť
There are sharp differences between Stewart and Markley.
Markley is considered by many as one of the more conservative members of the stateâ€™s legislature. He ran as a Tea Party-backed candidate in 2010 and won.
Stewart has also touted herself as fiscally conservative but, on many issues, socially liberal.
â€śWe have two very different philosophies on how we both see Republican success,â€ť Stewart said. â€śWhat Joe Markley doesnâ€™t bring to the ticket is the balance that the Republican Party needs.â€ť
The partyâ€™s endorsed gubernatorial candidate, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, is, like Markley, conservative across the board.
Stewart, 32, said sheâ€™d better help her party attract Democratic voters, especially in urban areas. She said gender and generational balance are important to a successful gubernatorial ticket.
The mayor acknowledged sheâ€™s received pushback for her comment to reporters that â€śtwo white menâ€ť isnâ€™t what residents are looking for in 2018. Stewart said she was, essentially, stating the obvious and was surprised at some of the criticism.
â€śI stand firm in my belief that we need to show the state that the Republican Party does have diversity and is willing to have different and broader ideas and ideologies on the ticket than before. We need that,â€ť Stewart said.
Stewart said she believes her candidacy would help the Republicansâ€™ gubernatorial chances in November.
â€śI do truly believe that the Republican Party needs diversity on a ticket, needs someone with my experience on a ticket, in order to appeal to the mass electorate this November,â€ť Stewart said. â€śThe most important part of the lieutenant governorâ€™s job is to step in if, God forbid, anything happened to the governor. Iâ€™ve taken the last 4 1/2 months to prove my experience and to show the state that Iâ€™ve earned the right to be in this position because of my experiences that I have had and because of the work that I have been able to accomplish here in New Britain.â€ť
Now, Stewart is focused on fundraising and continuing to spread her messages across the state.
â€śWeâ€™ve pretty much spent everything that weâ€™ve raised for the governorâ€™s campaign, but because we made the decision to switch to lieutenant governor, you start over with your qualifying contributions for the Citizensâ€™ Elections fund,â€ť Stewart said.
Stewart is back to collecting donations of $100 or less from state residents. To qualify for the Citizensâ€™ Elections Program, a candidate for lieutenant governor must raise $75,000.
â€śWe did over $150,000 in what, two months for the gubernatorial campaign, so Iâ€™m confident we can get there fairly quickly,â€ť Stewart said.
Stewart wonâ€™t be the only challenger Markley will face in August. Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson also qualified for the primary by winning 19.86 percent of delegate votes at the convention.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at email@example.com.