by John Dankosky – In his latest story, The Connecticut Mirror’s Mark Pazniokas “explores” the convoluted concept of political “exploration.”
Mark Pazniokas - photo by Chion Wolf
It’s something we’ve blogged about here before. Paz explains the reason why Dan Malloy and others have to be so careful about whether they say they’re “running for Governor” or “exploring a run:”
As an explorer, Malloy can legally accept donations of $375, raising money that will keep his campaign going until he qualifies for a Democratic primary. The earliest that can happen is May 22, the day of the nominating convention.
Once he declares as a candidate who intends to seek public financing, Malloy will be limited to $100 donations and must live off a budget of $250,000, which is the amount candidates must raise privately to qualify for public funds.
So, in this pettiest of political seasons, we get a fun new political tactic: Wait for “explorers” to slip up…then pounce! Pazniokas reports that Chris Healy, the state Republican Party Chairman filed a complaint against Malloy for one of these slip-ups (it was dismissed). Pazniokas then recalled one exchange on Where We Live with Malloy at the very end of the show, where the “explorer” seemed to make sure of his footing:
Dan Malloy on Where We Live - photo by Chion Wolf
“He is running for governor,” host John Dankosky said to close out the show, then he caught himself. “He is exploring a run for governor. Let’s say it correctly.”
“You can say it any way you want,” Malloy said, laughing. “I have to be careful.”
This reminded me of an earlier conversation…waaaaay earlier, in fact, with Secretary of the State, former Gubernatorial “explorer,” and aspiring candidate for Attorney General, Susan Bysiewicz. On this show from March 19th, 2009, Bysiewicz joined me in studio to talk about – well, about her candidacy – fresh off a Quinnipiac Poll that made it seem tough for anyone to beat incumbent Jodi Rell.
My first question? ”Why are you running for Governor?” In her answer, she talks about her three teenagers, and the “brain drain” in Connecticut that’s forcing young people to leave. She talks about the state’s bad job market, high housing costs and sprawl. Then, at 1:51 into the program (listen here) she says:
“We need to make Connecticut a place where young people, my daughter, will want to
Susan Bysiewicz - photo by Chion Wolf
come back and raise a family. And that’s why I’m running for Governor.”
Oops. Well, nearly one year later, there’s at least one big problem with that statement: She’s not running for Governor anymore. While I don’t think we need to re-analyze her motivations for dropping that bid while leading in polls, we might want to think about what it means to be in a nearly perpetual state of campaigning that must be couched in ridiculous “butt-covering” jargon. It’s not like any of these “explorers” are fooling anyone. It does, however, give them a chance to gauge our collective interest, through free media coverage – until they finally decide, like Ned Lamont, that “now’s the time.” In Bysiewicz’s case, this lack of official commitment may have left the door wider open for her to ditch one race in favor of another.
About twelve minutes later in that episode of Where We Live (at 17:00 for those listening at home) Bysiewicz took the first opportunity to correct her misstatement, but only after a savvy aide popped into the room with a whisper and a note during a break in the show. She and I began the segment, listening to the question of a caller, Dan, who asked what she’d do as Governor to help someone like him – a baby boomer stuck without health insurance. She thanked him for calling, but before giving an answer, she said this:
“I should also take this opportunity to say I have not declared for Governor yet. I have formed an exploratory committee, and I am getting ready and organized to run for Governor.”
I then jump in, trying to be cute: “We thought maybe you were getting ready to declare today on the program…we were kinda excited.” Bysiewicz, less amused than I would have liked: “Well, I just wanted to clarify that, John.”
If the person in charge of overseeing state elections doesn’t know when it’s okay to say she’s running for an office, it’s not just a “quirk” in the new public financing system. Let’s come right out and say it: It’s a pretty dumb rule.