NEW BRITAIN -Mayor Erin Stewart announced Monday that she has formed an exploratory committee for a run for governor.
“I’m proud to announce to all of you today, here on Facebook Live, that I have officially decided to explore a run for governor of the great state of Connecticut,” Stewart said in her living room shortly after 11 a.m.
Stewart has been waiting on the sidelines for months after rumors swirled about a potential run for statewide office. Stewart joins more than a dozen Republican candidates exploring a run for the state’s top seat.
In December, Stewart said that she’d been talking with state Republican leaders, gauging their opinions on the GOP’s slate of statewide candidates. It appears she liked what she heard.
“It’s become clear that we can’t afford to waste yet another opportunity to take back our state and set it on a new and better path,” said 30-year-old Stewart. “If you are looking for a candidate that is going to fit in nicely with a certain ideology, that’s not me.”
In a brief rundown of some of her political stances, Stewart said what differentiates her from others. She called herself a fiscally conservative Republican who is pro choice, supports responsible gun ownership and supports the civil rights of all individuals. Stewart said she is passionate about the success of Connecticut’s cities.
“I’m a different kind of Republican. I’m not going to be put in a box by a party or one person in Washington,” Stewart said.
Stewart has often touted her bipartisan approach and her success in New Britain, where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans greatly.
Stewart, the city’s 40th mayor, became the youngest female mayor in the country when she defeated Democratic incumbent Tim O’Brien in 2013 at the age of 26. She was re-elected in 2015, beating Democrat John McNamara and petitioning candidate Al Mayo. In November Stewart secured a third mayoral term, beating Democrat Merrill Gay and Mayo, who was again a petitioning candidate.
“I win elections because Democrats and Independents feel comfortable casting a ballot for me,” Stewart said.
Gay, a member of New Britain’s Board of Education and Stewart’s Democratic opponent in 2017’s mayoral election, wasn’t surprised by the announcement.
“It was what I expected,” Gay said who added that his campaign emphasized the possibility of a statewide run for Stewart.
Gay questioned her “fiscal conservative” label, referencing the mayor’s previous debt restructurings and the ongoing discussion about how to deal with the city’s debt. The Common Council is currently considering multiple plans to refinance up to $115 million in debt - something supporters say is necessary to offset upcoming balloon payments and something critics have metaphorically deemed ‘kicking the can down the road.’
“I had to chuckle when she called herself a fiscal conservative,” Gay said. “She solved our debt problem by borrowing a lot of money.”
Stewart’s official campaign website, www.erinforct.com , is already up and running. Valerie R. Martino is the exploratory committee’s treasurer. The mayor’s chief of staff Jodi Latina said there is no timeline for Stewart’s official decision.
“Our state has a lot of problems right now, there’s no doubt about that,” Stewart said. “It’s time to look in the mirror, it’s time to own up to who we are, stop blaming everything on everyone else, roll up our sleeves and get to work.”