NEW BRITAIN - Calling her decision â€śwhatâ€™s best for the party,â€ť Mayor Erin Stewart announced Friday sheâ€™s dropping out of the gubernatorial race to run for lieutenant governor as the statewide Republican Convention was about to start.
â€śWhen the numbers donâ€™t work in your favor, they donâ€™t work,â€ť Stewart told a crowd of reporters Friday afternoon at Foxwoods Casino where the convention is taking place. â€śBut I certainly do believe that no matter what happens my presence on this ticket is going to ensure a victory for Republicans in November. That is what this is about, this is about unity for our Republican team.â€ť
Stewart entered the gubernatorial race in early February. She faced stiff competition from nearly a dozen other candidates including Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, state Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, former U.S. Comptroller General Dave Walker, Stamfordâ€™s Director of Administration Mike Handler, Fairfield attorney Peter Lumaj, former hedge fund manager Dave Stemerman, businessmen Steve Obsitnik, Bob Stefanowski and Peter Thalheim.
She would have had to secure 15 percent of delegates statewide during the two-day convention to get on the ballot for the primary Aug. 14. Candidates must receive 50 percent plus one to win the nomination of the Republican party in their race. Stewart said her running mate, Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei, was expected to announce he will drop out of the race for lieutenant governor and throw in his support for her during the convention.
By switching races, Stewart will have to start campaign fundraising from scratch and disperse the $88,000 sheâ€™s collected in campaign contributions during her gubernatorial race, state elections officials said. The money will have to be either given to the Citizens Election Fund, a non-profit charitable organization or given back to contributors on a pro-rated basis after all campaign expenses have been paid.
The three-term New Britain mayor billed herself as a â€śmoderateâ€ť Republican who was pro-choice and inclusive. She reiterated during her announcement that she is a candidate who is attractive to Millennials. â€śI prided myself on being a moderate Republican,â€ť she said. â€śIâ€™m damn proud to be standing on this ticket right now.â€ť
Her announcement didnâ€™t come as a â€ścompleteâ€ť surprise, said Southington state Senator Joe Markley who entered the race for lieutenant governor about a year ago. â€śIt doesnâ€™t discombobulate me, I have a solid base of support,â€ť said Markley who considers himself a â€śtraditionalâ€ť Republican. â€śThose who are looking for Republican light now have a couple of alternatives to choose from. I am a principled conservative and I have a strong record on it.â€ť
Markley and five others were contenders for the lieutenant governor seat, which runs separately from the gubernatorial race. New Britain Republican Town Committee Chairman Tony Cane said he was driving to the convention Friday morning when he was called by a Stewart campaign operative about her decision to drop out of the race to throw her hat in the ring for lieutenant governor.
â€śIâ€™m glad sheâ€™s still running statewide,â€ť said Cane who is a convention delegate and the chairman of the New Britain delegation. â€śSheâ€™s an extremely capable candidate.â€ť
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or m.