Wednesday, February 28, 2007

2nd District speculation....

The news story on who the Republicans might be looking at as potential challengers to Democratic Congressman Joe Courtney will run in tomorrow's paper. But for "packing purposes," the scorecard listing those whose names are being mentioned is being converted into a graphic - and I'm not sure how they will look on the Web site tomorrow morning.

So, I've decided to put it out here on the blog this afternoon. I'd be most interested in hearing what you think.

Seriously considering making a run are:
Bozrah Fire Selectman Keith Robbins.
Former Groton Submarine Base commander Sean Sullivan.
Former FEMA Regional Director Daniel Craig.

Robbins told me Tuesday that he'll make his decision in a week to 10 days. Well known in southeastern Connecticut, he is chairman of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Government. He is also very active in the Connecticut Confernece of Municipalities (CCM) and Connecticut Organization of Small Towns (COST) - which helps in establishing name recognition among party players. That's an important element at this stage of the game, a good 20 months from the election. Establishing name recognition with voters is something that can be done later. Biggest hurdle Robbins faces is can he raise the $1 million to $2 million to mount a viable campaign.

Sullivan told me Tuesday that he would "entertain" the idea - but that wasn't a yes or no. He has had plans to enter politics since retiring from the U.S. Navy last year, and was said to possibly be considering a run at state Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, in the 2008 General Assembly races. But's attractive, although he admits that his biggest hurdle is never having run a political campaign, and jumping at the congressional level for his bid might prove particularily challenging. He would, however, be a strong candidate for the GOP nomination if he did get into the race because of his non-political, military background. He's very well known in southeastern Connecticut, and would likely attract a lot of attention from other parts of the district out of interest in wanting to know more about him.

Craig is currently working as a consultant with a law firm in Washington, but still has property in Deep River. He formerly served as the Deep River Republican Town Committee Chairman. Earlier today he told me that he has "toyed" with the idea of making a run at the position, but wouldn't come into the race until after March 31 - if he does. Reason for that is March 31 is the campaign financing filing deadline - and you wouldn't want your first FEC report to indicate you "can't raise the money." By coming in after March 31, you give yourself a full three months to build up that first warchest to be reported later in July.

Two potentials who will NOT be running - but probably could have easily grabbed the GOP nomination:
Former Groton Mayor and Simmons' District Office Director Jane Dauphinais.
State Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington.

If Dauphinais - and she told me Tuesday she "is not a candidate" - were to make a bid, she would be considered the strongest among the GOP hopefuls based solely on her last six years working as Simmons' District Director. None of the other would-be candidates know as much about the job as she does. And although she conceded the idea of being a member of Congress is "wonderful," what she doesn't like is the road you travel to get there - also known as campaigning. If if wasn't for that fact that she would to campaign, she'd probably do it. But...she's not.

Urban was well position to make a very strong bid for the nomination - except she's now a Democrat. Ambitious and bright, Urban had plans to run for Cathy Cook's Senate seat last year, but got elbowed aside by the GOP in favor of Lenny Winkler. That didn't sit well with Urban who has long thought that the GOP hasn't treated her well. She made some noise last year when she announced she was going to run as a petitioning candidate in the U.S. Senate race, but fell short of gathering the necessary number of signatures to qualify and gave up that bid. Then, after her re-election to the state House of Representatives, she jumped to the Democratic Party.

Among current Republican members of the General Assembly, there is only one possible contender:
State Rep. Pam Sawyer of Bolton. She is currently the Minority Whip, smart and has an impressive resume. She is a quick study and well-versed on the issues. Her hurdle, however, is that her representative district isn't that populated, so she would come in with a small base of support. She's not well known beyond that and there is some question as to how effective a fundraiser she would be. Her past campaigns have not required her to raise large amounts - and this one would. Not sure she wants to make that kind of effort with such short notice.

Other current General Assembly members whose names are being mentioned - but are NOT likely to run:
State Rep. Michael Caron from Killingly.
State Rep. Michael Alberts of Woodstock.
State Sen. John Kissel of Enfield.
(Caron and Alberts have told me in the past they are simply not interested. Kissel has long considered that possibility, but the timing of things personally for him may prove that this isn't the year for him.)

Others being mentioned - but again, NOT likely to run:
Former state Sen. Cathy Cook of Mystic.
Former state Rep. Lenny Winkler of Groton.
(Both are coming off tough, unsuccessful elections last year and it's unlikely either are inclined to jump into an even more gruling campaign so quickly.)
Preston First Selectman Robert Congdon.
(Congdon told me Tuesday he's not interested and will instead seek re-election to his municipal job this year. His name gets mentioned because of his wide name recognition in light of the Norwich State Hospital property development proposal with Utopia.)
And Catherine Marx of Hebron, the governor's former Eastern Area Director. Smart and hard working, but not well known and probably not strong enough in the fundraising aspect to make a strong bid.

Now...there's probably a few others out there who may also be considering it but are flying well below the radar at this stage. The problem is, there isn't a lot of time for the would-be challengers to decide if they want to get into the mix. And the reason for that is the money. A lof of it has to be raised and raised quickly. Both Rob Simmons and Joe Courtney have proven that the only way to do this is to get into the game early - spend the first year lining up your organizational support and raising money, and then next year start reaching out to voters.

Rell's education proposal...

The governor made her presentation to the legislature's Education Committee today, explaining her proposal to increase statge funding for education. Here's an except of the governor's testimony at the public hearing...

"My education plan will provide important, long-overdue changes to the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant. I am proposing an increase in ECS grants by $1.1 billion per year over the next five years with each community receiving a minimum 3% increase over its prior year grant. Every town will benefit. The overall ECS Foundation will increase from $5,891 to $9,687 by the end of the five-year phase in and the ECS cap will be eliminated the first year. This plan will finally achieve the 50/50 education cost sharing between the State of Connecticut and our cities and towns.

"Early childhood education continues to be one of my priorities. Over the biennium, I am proposing that more than $40 million dollars be invested to finance one-third (about 4,100) of the unmet pre-school needs for children living in the poorest communities in Connecticut. I am also proposing to phase in universal preschool for 13,000 children from low-income families. Supporting initiatives to reduce racial isolation and improve urban education is critical; therefore, I am increasing financial incentives for the OPEN Choice Program and for enhanced academic support for primary and middles school students.

"To properly prepare our students for higher education, I am requiring more math and science courses as well as a high school graduation exam. If students are prepared for college, money should not be a barrier for them to attend; therefore, I am recommending a $25 million dollar increase in student financial aid for both public and private colleges. These are critical steps if we are to make progress in closing the achievement gap.

"As for accountability, I am calling for a number of new measures ranging from empowering the State Department of Education with a series of increasing interventions for districts that fail to meet adequate progress to more discrete programs that deal with specific issues such as truancy.

"Every year we talk about reducing crime, about reducing violence in our cities, about reducing the drop-out rate and about properly investing in education. The more things have changed, the more they have stayed the same and the only long-term solution is education.

"Fourteen months ago I convened a bi-partisan “Commission on Education Financing” charged with identifying better, fairer ways of distributing state funds for local education.

"The commission issued its final recommendations last December. My education proposal was largely based on the findings of this group of education financing and education accountability experts who spent a year studying the issues and developing their recommendations. The time is right to implement them - let’s get it done.

"Connecticut’s future continues to be knowledge. We must invest in our children from the ground up or our economy will decline. I firmly believe that we can secure our future with this unprecedented commitment to education. I respectfully request your support for this bill and look forward to working with you to build the best education system in America.

Occupational hazards...

Last night I posted a blog saying that a story about potential Republican congressional challengers in 2008 would appear in the newspaper this morning...and could be accessed on the Web at

Well...if you went looking for it this morning, you came away empty. It didn't run. A decision was made last night to hold it.

We knew yesterday that on Tuesday night the Plainfield Police Commission would be meeting to decide what to do with the controversy surrounding Police Chief Gary Sousa. What we didn't know is what - if anything - they would do. Well, they did act. They voted to suspend the chief effective immediately.

It was a pretty big story, and during the evening once the paper learned of the decision, they - those who make those kinds of decisions here - opted to make the Sousa story "the story" of the day. And my story about potential GOP congressional candidates was taken out of today's paper. It's one of those occupational hazards becayse news is constantly evolving and a good plan in the afternoon can suddenly become not so good hours later.

But I'm not complaining. On the contrary, I am rather pleased that the decision was made to hold my story rather than try and shoe-horn it into whatever hole in the paper might have been available at that hour of the night. It's an interesting story, I think anyway. But then again, I'm a political junkie and these kinds of stories are the ones that interest me the most. I'd much rather have it get a decent play in the paper than just squeezed (edited) into what space is available.

So...the story, I've been told, will run tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Late but not forgotten...

It's been a long day, but an interesting one to say the least. I've spent a good portion of the day today talking with Republicans trying to get a fix on who might emerge as the GOP challenger in the 2008 2nd Congressional District race.

Former Congressman Rob Simmons will not make an attempt next year to win back the seat he lost to freshman Democratic Congressman Joe Courtney in the 2006 mid-term elections. It was widely speculated that given the closeness of the race - only 91 votes separated the two out of more than 242,000 votes cast - that Simmons would be the candidate. But as noted yesterday, Gov. M. Jodi Rell is nominating Simmons to be the first-ever state Business Advocate - a four-year appointment that would complete the 10-year, self-imposed limit Simmons said he intended to put in when he was first elected to Congress in 2000.

In talking with Simmons earlier today, he said that if he is confirmed by the General Assembly, and the new office is funded at the level now being requested, he intends to devote all his energies to that.

So who then do the Republicans have to put up to challenge Courtney next year.

Some of the possible candidates are names familiar to those who watch politics. But there are also a few surprising names being bantered about as well.

Okay...a little more shameless self-promotion. The story - and a listing of those names - appears in tomorrow's Norwich Bulletin (which you can read on

Monday, February 26, 2007

Breaking news in the 2nd Congressional District...

Former Congressman Rob Simmons has accepted a position to become the state's first Business Advocate, a position created by the General Assembly during the 2006 session. Republican Gov. M. Joid Rell announced this afternoon that she will nominate Simmons for the spot.

That suggests that Simmons has made up his mind regarding a possible rematch with U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District - and has apparently decided not to put himself through another grueling campaign in 2008.

The new position is a four-year appointment. The salary for the job is "to be determined" according to the governor's staff.

What this means is that it's a wide open race on the GOP side in finding a challenger for Courtney when he seeks re-election next year. And GOP potential candidates are a bit slim in numbers in this part of the state - so it may not be a crowded open field.

Things to ponder on a snowy Monday...

A few ineresting tidbits to consider when watching the 2008 presidential candidates on television newscast as they campaign:

According to a new Gallup poll, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has the strongeste "favorable" ratings among any of the other 2008 hopefuls - Democrats and Republicans. Giuliani is viewed favorably by more Republicans, Independents - and Democrats - than any of the candidates. He is followed closely, however, by Arizona Sen. John McCain and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama - and all three have a fairly good size - about 12 percent - of folks saying they have no opinion of them. (That's a good thing because that means there is room for them to grow).

The problem with that poll, however, is that a cross section of voters across the country doesn't translate into an equal amount of support among the party faithful who will be casting ballots in the various state primaries. Giuliani may be a favorite of most - but he's no show-in for the GOP nomination.

A second point to consider about polls- and especially how it effects Democratic candidates:

Frontrunners in polls at this stage of the game more often than not fail to win the party's nomination. Do these names ring any bells:
Edmund Muskie (1972)
George Wallace (1976)
Edward Kennedy (1980)
Gary Hart (1988)
Mario Cuomo (1992)
Joe Lieberman (2004)

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton is currently holding the number one spot in every early poll on the Democratic side.

Another Simmons connection to the state level...

Heath Fahle has been named Political Director of the Connecticut Republican Party.

Fahle, who lives in Manchester, was Field Director for former Congressman Rob Simmons' 2006 Congressional race. He has served in numerous campaigns and been an intern for both Congressman Simmons and Gov. Rell in 2005.

Heath will be responsible for managing the party’s aggressive grass roots operation, including candidate recruitment, field operations and long-term planning.

A native of Columbus, Ohio, he grew up in Ashville, New York. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of Connecticut.

Fahle joins Chris Healy at the state GOP Central Commmittee. Healy, who announced Fahle's appointment Monday, was the former campaign manager for Simmons last year.

Monday...snow...Gore...and Oscar

Academy Award winner Al Gore, the former Democratic vice president and 2000 presidential candidate, had some fun at the Academy Awards last night, a light-hearted attempt at making an announcement before the music came up and he was ushered off stage.

But despite his repeated denials of interest in seeking the Democratic nomination next years, his supporters are hoping that a "Draft Gore" grassroots effort might convince him to jump into the race. The Connecticut Draft Al Gore for President Movement will hold its first meeting on Thursday, March 1 at the Circle Diner in Fairfield, CT at 7:00pm. The meeting is open to all Connecticut residents interested in drafting Al Gore for President.

The Circle Diner is located at 441 Post Road in Fairfield, just minutes from I-95. For more information please contact the CT Draft Al Gore office at (203) 583-8142 or email at

The Connecticut Draft Al Gore movement is part of the official grassroots draft Al Gore movement started by Dylan Malone. For more information visit

Friday, February 23, 2007

Lieberman's latest remark...

Connecticut's Indepednent U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman is once again raising hte ire of Democrats, this time suggesting that he might consider caucusing with Republicans if Democrats are successful in blocking the funding for the Iraq War.

However, it appears that if he did switch, it won't have any impact on the leadership in the Senate. This according to Goddard's Political Wire...

"This is because of a little-known Senate organizing resolution, passed in January, which gives Democrats control of the Senate and committee chairmanships until the beginning of the 111th Congress."

What's the difference between now and 2001 (the last time a senator switch parties)? A small but important distinction. When the 107th Congress was convened on January 3, 2001, Al Gore was still the Vice President and would be for another two-and-a-half weeks. Therefore, because of the Senate's 50-50 tie, Democrats had nominal control of the chamber when the organizing resolution came to a vote. With Dick Cheney soon to come in, however, Democrats allowed Republicans to control the Senate in return for a provision on the organizing resolution that allowed for a reorganization of the chamber if any member should switch parties, which Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords did five months later. There was no such clause in the current Senate's organizing resolution.

Update: This from AP - Lieberman dismisses speculation on party switch:

"I have no desire or intention to leave the Democratic Party or the Democratic caucus," Lieberman said Friday while in Hartford to host an education forum. "I hope and believe we'll never get to that point, so I believe this latest flurry is much ado about nothing."

Obama, the first to say goodbye - to Tom that is.

Here's what Illinois Sen. Barack Obama had to say about Vilsack's decision to quit the race...

"Tom Vilsack is an outstanding public servant whose initiatives in Iowa on education reform, health care and alternative energy are models from which our entire nation can learn. More than that, Tom brings a badly needed sense of honor and decency to our politics, and a passionate advocacy for an end to the war in Iraq. I hope he will continue to speak out in the months and years to come, as his is an important and valued voice."

Vilsack is the first to leave the field....

The Associated Press is reporting that former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack is dropping out of the Democratic race for president - the first to leave the field after several months of people jumping into the race.

Sen. Carl Leven, D-MI, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee is this week's featured guess on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday morning news show. No doubt he'll be talking about the issue of funding the needs of the military - but whether that will include any talk about increasing submarine production is uncertain.

Others set to offer their wisdom this Sunday are former President Jimmy Carter (the only submariner ever elected president) on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopolous and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on CBS's Face the Nation. (I know of no Schwarzenegger/submarine connection unless somewhere in his resume he might have starred in a movie that featured one.)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Nevada Democratic forum...

I wasn't able to catch all of the televised Nevada forum featuring most of the Democratic presidential contenders. We all know that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama didn't participate due to a "scheduling conflict."

But the action wasn't limited to just the stage at the Carson City convention center and the Associated Press had a nice roundup of what else was going on in Nevada Wednesday. It's become an important state now that it's caucus has been moved up to the week after Iowa's caucus, and a week before the New Hampshire primary.

From the AP this morning:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is banking on his Western roots and policy experience to get a leg up in the newly important Nevada caucus. But the governor didn't want to get into too many specifics Wednesday.

In brief remarks to about 300 Democrats who gathered at a local newspaper's conference room to watch the presidential candidates forum aired live on C-SPAN, Richardson touched on several key Nevada issues, saying he's opposed to nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain and wants to find ways to free up federal land.

But the governor had nothing to say on southern Nevada water officials' current answer to sustaining Nevada's massive growth: a multibillion water pipeline that will pump water from rural counties to Las Vegas. The issue is a prickly one within state, dividing north from south and urban from rural, and uniting environmentalists with ranchers afraid the plan could damage ecosystems.

"I'll get into those issues a little later," Richardson said.


While they didn't stuff the hallways quite like Sen. Hillary Clinton, Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack both took time to meet with state Democratic lawmakers, lobbyists, and staffers hoping for a quick chat or a photograph in the state legislative building.

Dodd met with a crowd of fans in Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus' office, about 10 minutes after Clinton's entourage had cleared out. Dodd took a minute to practice his Spanish language skills while speaking to Assemblyman Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, who recently delivered the national Democratic Hispanic radio address, telling Spanish-speaking voters they stand to play a major role in the 2008 presidential elections.


Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich brought a crowd of 300 people to its feet Wednesday at a newspaper office with a roaring speech in which he called for Congress to deny funding for the Iraq war.

"Bring the troops home!" Kucinich thundered three times to a whooping and whistling crowd at The Nevada Appeal.

He also jabbed at his opponents who voted for war.

Kucinich was accompanied by a tall, striking redheade a contrast to his 2004 presidential campaign, when his single status stood out among other candidates: Kucinich, 60, married British citizen Elizabeth Harper, then 27, in August 2005, a few months after meeting her, and the two spent much of time holding hands Wednesday. The twice-divorced congressman's single status made headlines in 2004, when he told New Hampshire campaign audiences that he was seeking a mate. Women then vied for a date with him during a contest arranged by a political Web site, but nothing romantic evolved from Kucinich's breakfast with the winner.


New York Sen. Hillary Clinton told Nevada Democrats on Wednesday that when she first heard about the presidential candidates forum in Carson City, she didn't think she could make it.

"Harry, I'm supposed to be somewhere else," she told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid when he gave her the date a few weeks ago.

"Well, we'll sure miss you," Reid responded.

Clinton told the story to a packed room at The Nevada Appeal, saying she'd flown all night from Florida rather than miss the forum, perhaps taking a shot at Sen. Barack Obama, who did not attend the forum. Obama, D-Ill., was campaigning in Iowa instead. He headlined a Las Vegas rally over the weekend and was in California on Tuesday for a major Hollywood fundraiser.


The spending cap...

State Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, was the featured speaker this morning at a legislative breakfast hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut. Not surprising, the state budget was the main item of his talk with about 170 area business leaders.

Williams talked about the Democratic priorities of health care, economic development, transportation and tourism, saying although he still considers the governor courageous in presenting the budget that she did earlier this month, her proposal requires too many cuts in programs and services - money that he said needed to be restored.

But what he never talked about is the state spending cap. The General Assembly , and the governor , have their hands tied with just how much new spending they can include in the budget - unless the governor signs a declaration declaring an emergency that requires breaking the cap. She has indicated that she will do that - at least as far as her proposals are concerned. But she hasn't said she'll do it if Democrats put a budget on her desk that ignore her plans and includes only their own.

A lot has been made leading up to this legislative session about how Democrats hold a "veto-proof" majority in both chambers. But in this case, the governor still holds the trump card. Without her declaration, it doesn't matter how many votes the Democrats have - they can't spend more than what the cap allows. And as both sides readily admit - that's not enough to keep the status quo.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Gay marriage will dominate activity at the state Capitol today.

Later today, we should know whether another controversial meaasure, one allowing undocumented immigrants to attend state universities and colleges at the in-state tuitipon rate - will continue to move through the legislative process.

The first debate - actually a forum - between the Democratic candidates for president gets under way at noon in Carson City, Nevada (Nevada time).

And a second Nevada debate is now planned for next month featuring both Democratic and Republican candidates. The Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced today the candidates who will appear at New Leadership on Health Care: A Presidential Forum. The first presidential forum of the 2008 election focused solely on health care will take place on Saturday, March 24th at 9:30 a.m. in the Cox Pavilion at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Presidential candidates who have confirmed are: Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. John Edwards, Sen. Barack Obama, Gov. Bill Richardson, and Gov. Tom Vilsack. Invitations have been extended to every Republican and Democratic presidential candidate.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Between the pages...

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd will soon join that exclusive club of presidential hopefuls to release a book. Not a lot is being said about it, or when it will hit the shelves. It is expected, however, that the book will more than likely play up his foreign affairs experience and knowledge. More on that as more is learned.

An earlier start than ever...

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whose presidential hopes are lagging in the polls, is going on the offensive. He's launch the first presidential TV commercial of the season - earlier than anyone has ever gone to the airwaves in presidential politics. Romney, who shouldn't be discounted and may very well prove to be the surprise candidate on the GOP side, is airing the ads in five states - fortunately for us, Connecticut is not one of them. (After the way the airwaves were saturated in last year's mid-term elections - and that was three months ago - I'm not sure anyone around here is ready for that yet.)

Courtney and Iraq...

There were problems with the Blog page today, but it appears they now have them fixed.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, is home from Washington for the week, and spent a good part of the morning talking with students at Ellis Tech in Danielson. After his address to the students, we had a chance to talk about the non-binding resolution on the president's troop surge. The resolution passed the House, but fell short in the Senate.

Courtney said he wasn't disappointed, and believes that by acting, both chambers sent strong messages to the American people that as we approach the fourth anniversary of the start of the war, Congress will no longer simply sit back and allow the Administration to do whatever it wants without some accountability. He noted that Democrats in the Senate, although unable to pass this resolution, intend to continue to bring the issue up - in a variety of ways.

Which led to the question of where does he stand on the issue of the funding for the surge. Throughout last year's campaign, Courtney said that he wasn't "there yet" to take a vote on the funding for the war. However, his comments to the students this morning sounded as if he might now be ready. So I asked him if he was now.

Courtney said he can support Congressman John Murtha's proposals to put restrictions on the funding. Murtha carries some weight in this area as chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Among the restrictions that he would like to require that troops be adequately trained before being deployed - and if not, not deployed. Restrictions that would require a 12-month break between deployments, etc.

"And if that prevents the president from escalating the war, so be it," he said. I returned to the office, I found an e-mail from the Republican National Campaign Committee, talking about that very same issue - and Mr. Murtha's "real" goals and intent - as they see them, and using media reports as a means of conveying that criticism.

Such as this from the Washington Post:

"His aim, he made clear, is not to improve readiness but to 'stop the surge.' So why not straightforwardly strip the money out of the appropriations bill -- an action Congress is clearly empowered to take -- rather than try to micromanage the Army in a way that may be unconstitutional?"

And this from the NY Times:

"We fear that clever maneuvers like the one proposed by Representative John Murtha, reportedly with the backing of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to dress up a reduction in troop strength as a "support the troops" measure won't help contain the war or make American troops safer."

Monday, February 19, 2007

On this day...

With all government offices closed today in observance of President's Day, it's quiet on the political front. Certainly not a day slated to go down in history. But since I do enjoy history, I thought you might enjoy a brief spin down memory lane in terms of other more significant things that happened on this day - Feb. 19 - in history.
1807 - Former U.S. vice president Aaron Burr is arrested in Alabama for treason. Despite later being acquitted, public opinion will force him to live out the remainder of his life in privacy.
1878 - Thomas Alva Edison patented a music player (the phonograph) at his lab in Menlo Park, NJ.
1913 - The first prize is inserted into a Cracker Jack box.
1942 - U.S. President Roosevelt signed an executive order giving the military the authority to relocate and intern Japanese-Americans.
1945 - During World War II, about 30,000 U.S. Marines landed on Iwo Jima.
1953 - The State of Georgia approved the first literature censorship board in the U.S. Newspapers were excluded from the new legislation.
1985 - Mickey Mouse was welcomed to China as part of the 30th anniversary of Disneyland. The touring mouse played 30 cities in 30 days.
1985 - Cherry Coke was introduced by the Coca-Cola Company.
1986 - The U.S. Senate approved a treaty outlawing genocide. The pact had been submitted 37 years earlier for ratification.
1987 - A controversial, anti-smoking ad aired for the first time on television. It featured Yul Brynner who died shortly after of lung cancer.

Looking for a gift?

Have you ever found yourself lost for a good idea for a gift for that favorite political junkie in your life? might be in luck. This is from the Associated Press:

Some Connecticut towns are in the process of selling their old lever voting machines, which are being replaced with modern, optical scan devices.

Towns in Fairfield County are among the first to receive the new machines for upcoming spring elections. Eighteen arrived in Westport on Friday. Norwalk received 28 about a month ago, the Stamford Advocate reported Monday.

Norwalk is accepting bids for its 80 lever machines through March 2. People can bid on one or more machines. Gerald Foley, the city's purchasing director, said one interested firm has inspected the lever contraptions, which have been around since the 1950s. Other people have picked up bid packages.

"There seems to be a little bit of interest," Foley said.

There have been no takers so far in Westport, where 30 voting machines are up for sale.

By November, the state's entire inventory of 3,300 lever machines will be replaced with the optical scanners in all 169 municipalities. Connecticut used $32 million in federal money to pay for the new machines to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act.

More details from the poll...

Quinnipiac University polled 1,087 Connecticut voters Feb. 9-12. Among those were 269 Republicans and 414 Democrats. The overall margin of error in head-to-head matchups for a presidential contest is +/- 3 percent. Results of the Republican only match has a margin of error of +/- 6 percent and the Democrats only match of +/- 4.9 percent.

Here’s a look at how the voting went.

Democrats only:
Clinton 33
Obama 21
Gore 9
Dodd 8
Edwards 5
Biden 2
Richardson, Clark and Kucinich 1 percent
Vilsack O

Republicans only:
Giuliani 43
McCain 27
Gingrich 5
Romney 4
Hagel 2
Hunter, Brownback amd Huckabee 1
Thompson, Gilmore, Pataki and Tancredo 0

Head-to-head presidential contests:
Clinton beats Giuliani 48-44
Clinton beats McCain 48-40
Clinton beats Romney 55-27
Obama beats McCain 43-38
Dodd and McCain 43-42 (tie)
McCain beats Edwards 44-40.

Clinton and Giuliani lead, Dodd a distant fourth

If the Connecticut primary were held today, New York Sen. Hilliary Clinton and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani would win their respective party contests.

Connecticut Sen. Christopher J. Dodd comes in fourth among Democrats, trailing Clinton, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former Vice President Al Gore, according to a new poll released this morning.

The poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University has Clinton leading the Democratic field with 33 percent, followed by Obama at 21 percent and Gore at 9 percent. Dodd comes in with 8 percent and former North Carolina Sen. john Edwards has 5 percent.

On the Republican side, Giuliani is the choice among 43 percent of GOP voters, followed by Arizona Sen. John McCain with 27 percent. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is third at 5 percent and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is at 4 percent.

In a head-to-head matchup, Clinton holds a slight lead over Giuliani, 48-44 percent.

A Monday holiday

Working the early shift today, in at 6 a.m. and hopefully out at a reasonable hour this afternoon.

In about half-hour, Quinnipiac University will release its latest poll on the 2008 presidential race. It's a poll of Connecticut residents. The latest poll of folks from here showed Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd trailing NY Sen. Hilliary Clinton. The poll will be released around 9 a..m.

Friday, February 16, 2007

On Dodd's presidential bid...

This little tidbit was in the Washington Post today...

"Among Democrats, Dodd's $5 million campaign nest egg is surpassed only by that of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), who has one of the most elaborate fundraising machines ever assembled. Dodd's electoral riches can be traced to the banking panel, whose jurisdiction includes some of the wealthiest industries in America -- banking, insurance and financial services. In addition, Dodd's home state is the hedge fund and insurance capital of the country. But it is Dodd's philosophy, not only his geography, that has made him a cash magnet."


The Navy has asked Congress to increase its budget for construction of new ships that were not included in the Pentagon's proposed Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Budget. But, as it has been in the past, the Navy is still not yet endorsing efforts to increase submarine production to two a year before the scheduled 2012 plan

This from Gov. magazine:

In particular, the service wants an additional $1.7 billion to buy another LPD-17 amphibious transport dock ship next year, a move that would fulfill their stated requirement of 10 ships.

The Pentagon's fiscal 2008 budget request includes money for the Navy's ninth LPD-17, but the service's six-year budget projections do not reveal any plans to seek funding for a 10th ship. The fleet has been built at Northrop Grumman Ship System's Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., and Avondale shipyard in New Orleans.

The Navy also would like another $1.2 billion to buy two more T-AKE dry cargo carriers, built by the San Diego-based National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. The FY08 budget proposal contains funding for only one, bringing the T-AKE fleet to 11 ships.

The Senate last summer balked at the Navy's fiscal 2007 request for funds for a single T-AKE ship, asserting that the Navy had yet to begin construction of five previously funded ships or spend $2.4 billion already appropriated by Congress. But in the end, House and Senate Defense appropriations conferees agreed to restore the money cut by the Senate.

Looking ahead to fiscal 2008, House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha, D-Pa., and House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee Chairman Gene Taylor, D-Miss., already have discussed adding five ships to the Navy's budget. But the two Democratic allies have spoken informally about boosting accounts for Virginia-class submarines and surface destroyers -- neither of which made the Navy's unfunded list.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Drunk dirving and taxes...

Off to the Capitol today for a couple of press conferences...

Local lawmakers are teaming with MADD to throw support behind legislation intended to increase penalties for drunk driving...

And then later this afternoon, House Speaker Jim Amann will meet with reporters to talk about the Democratic budget plan now that folks have had some time to digest the governor's proposal.

What do you think?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Iraq debate....

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, got his five minutes this afternoon in the ongoing debate over Iraq going on in the U.S. House of Representatives. Basically, Courtney said he supports the troops, but opposes the administration's policy of the surge.

Here is exactly what he said during his five minutes on the House floor:

"Mr. Speaker, we stand here today one hundred days after an historic watershed election in this country in which the American people spoke loudly and clearly that they wanted a new Congress to rise to its constitutional duty and hold this administration accountable for its war policy in Iraq. The day I was sworn in as a new member of Congress, I accepted this responsibility and I rise today in opposition to the President's escalation of the war."

"Make no mistake about the significance of what is happening this week-This new Congress will go on record for the first time in almost four years in opposition to the Bush administration's legacy of mistakes and misjudgments in Iraq. It will be a stark contrast to eight months ago when the prior Congress did exactly the opposite - that Congress lined up in lockstep with a war resolution written by and for the White House."

"That shameful resolution completely brushed over the misleading and manipulated intelligence that got us into this conflict, the strain of this war on our brave men and women in uniform and the drain on our nation's military readiness that is undercutting critical efforts in Afghanistan and our overall defense infrastructure and instead just rubberstamped the administration's rhetoric and failing policy."

"Opponents of this resolution are claiming that it will damage our troops' morale - as a member of the Armed Services Committee I believe the opposite is true."

"Let us be very clear about where the 20,000 troops will come from. President Bush cannot simply dial 911 and 20,000 fresh troops appear. This escalation can only happen by extending the deployments of deployed soldiers beyond their already promised commitments, or by accelerating the arrival of preexisting rotations. Upon close examination it is clear that the impact of this surge lands squarely on the backs our men and women in uniform who already have borne an unfair burden."

"As we debate this resolution, there are nearly 1,900 men and women from my state of Connecticut, including 962 from the Connecticut National Guard, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have all honored our nation with their service and sacrifice. They have done all that has been asked of them and more, and their families have shown strength in their absence."

"Earlier this month, I was forwarded an email from a constituent serving in Iraq which demonstrates the consequences of these unsustainable policies. In it, he described how morale in his unit fell when they found out that their tours were unexpectedly being extended another four months. He said:

"These guys have seen so much of the fighting here. To see the looks on these soldiers' faces was heart breaking. A lot of these guys had plans made already with their loved ones like weddings, trips, or family that traveled from faraway to see them get off that plane. There are children that were all excited holding signs they made waiting to see their fathers again only to have that shattered. How much more can soldiers like this take it? These guys deserve the right to go home, they earned it."

"Letters like these demonstrate the real impact on our troops from the President's policy. And they are reinforced by the testimony I have heard at Armed Services. Over and over again we have heard about the deterioration of our military readiness caused by over deployment of our troops. Consider that today, as a result of the strain of the war, we currently have no active duty or reserve brigades considered "combat ready" in the continental US, leaving our nation dangerously unprepared and vulnerable if needed to respond to other global threats or domestic emergencies."

"Consider that the Army National Guard has only 30 percent of its essential equipment on hand, and nearly 40 percent of the Army and Marine Corps equipment is deployed in Iraq."

"Despite the huge costs to our troops and our national defense, the President has opted to aggravate the holes in our defense with a plan to escalate the number of troops in Iraq. For what?"

"Yesterday, I read the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. What I found in this report is a deteriorating security situation in Iraq whose fundamental cause is political-not military. This finding completely dovetails the findings of the Iraq Study Group who came to exactly the same conclusion."

"Instead of absorbing the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group report and the NIE and surging diplomacy and political solutions the President instead has opted to escalate the war by sending 21,500 more troops into the middle of a violent sectarian conflict."

"Where are the plans to equitably divide oil revenue or revisit the Iraqi constitution that was left incomplete two years ago or the push to create a real power sharing arrangement between the Shiia and the Sunni? Nowhere do we see any effort to get to the root causes of the violence. Instead, it is more of the same - asking our brave troops to do the impossible and settle a sectarian conflict that goes back centuries in time."

"President Bush has made his choice, now it is Congress's turn as a co-equal branch of government to make ours. I firmly believe that passage of this resolution will go down in history as the first stirrings of life from a Congress that has been in a stranglehold for four long years. It is an honor to be part of this history on behalf of one of the districts that had the courage to vote for change."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Dodd's candidacy...

U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, grabbing quite a bit of national TV news time of late - especially on the Sunday morning news shows - is taking his presidential candidacy back to New Hampshire this week.

Dodd is planning another two-day swing through the state Thursday and Friday.

And with all the talk about Iran these days, here's what the senator had to say today on the subject.

“I am deeply troubled by this Administration's escalating rhetoric against Iran, especially intelligence from unnamed officials that is not fully documented. It is frighteningly reminiscent of the pattern we saw in the drumbeat that led to the war with Iraq. We continue to witness the lethal consequences of our failed policies in Iraq. I will not remain silent should the Bush Administration attempt to lead us down a similar path with respect to Iran.

“Iran's regime poses a serious threat to the region – to Iraq, Israel and the United States, most especially. Iran is supporting and financing international terrorist organizations and is seeking to acquire the capability to produce nuclear weapons. And it is wielding influence within certain quarters of Iraq in ways that are destabilizing.

“Unfortunately, until very recently the Bush Administration sat on the side lines and did nothing to engage Iran in any meaningful dialogue to press Iran to change course. The United States must exhaust all avenues – robust diplomacy and direct negotiations coupled with economic pressures on Iran's financial and energy sectors. While the United States should never take any option off the table to advance our national security interests, it is critical that all options be carefully analyzed and the implications of their use fully understood. Based on the Administration's track record I have no faith that it will behave judiciously.”

Pre storm wonderings...

Gov. M. Jodi Rell's proposal to raise the state income and cigarette tax isn't being very well received. Just about everyone hates the idea. And probably with some good reason. When you add in all federal and state taxes we pay, Connecticut ranks #1 in the country in terms of who pays the highest amount - 35.9 percent. (Alabama is ranked 50th at 27.5 percent)

When you look at just the state and local taxes paid on gasoline, cigarettes and the sales tax, Connecticut finishes in the Top Ten at the number 9 spot. (Alaska has the least and holds the number 50 spot while Maine of all places takes over the number 1 spot).

For comparison purposes, here is how Connecticut ranks compared to our three neighbors - New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts:

State Gas tax Cigraettes Sales Combined Rank Add federal taxes Rank
Conn. 40.5 cents $1.51 6% 11.3% 9 35.9% 1
Mass. 23.5 $1.51 5% 10.3% 28 33.4% 6
RI 31 $2.46 7% 11.5% 8 33% 8
NY 41.7 $1.50 4% 12.9% 2 35.1% 2

I remember when we use to call our neighbor to the north Taxachusetts. Not anymore.

Monday, February 12, 2007

On the national level...

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama makes his first appearance in New Hampshire since officially joining the 2008 presidential sweepstakes. His visit today follows NY Sen. Hillary Clinton's two-day stop in the Granite State.

Connecticut Sen. Christopher J. Dodd brings his presidential campaign to the Big Apple today. Dodd will address the annual meeting of the Democratic Leadership for the 21st Century as it kicks off its 2008 Road to White House Series tonight at the Red Sky Lounge.

And back in Washington, the House is getting ready for a three-day debate over the increase in troops to Iraq. The House will be debating a non-binding resolution expressing its opposition to the president's plan, with every member of the House - all 435 - being offered five minutes to comment on the proposal. The debate begins Tuesday, and is likely to run through Thursday.

Rebuilding year...

An interesting piece on the AP wire this morning regarding the state Republican meeting held over the weekend.

Newly appointed Chairman of the GOP State Central Committee Chris Healy told about 70 Republicans in attendence that unless the party can successfully recruit new candidates for elected office, the party will have little chance of being a player in state affairs. Republicans took a beating in last year's election, losing two Congressional seats and a number of General Assembly seats - handing the Democrats a veto-proof majority in both the state House of Representatives and state Senate.

On a side note, the southeastern Connecticut legislative delegation - which use to promote its bipartisan approach to addressing concerns from the region - can't play the bipartisan card anymore. Every member of the delegation is now a Democrat. In fact, there are only two sitting GOP lawmakers from all of eastern Connecticut - Mike Caron from Killingly and Mike Alberts from Woodstock.

Alan Schlesinger was also on hand for the weekend conference, hosted by the Connecticut Conservative Congress, entitled "Defining the Republican Party in Connecticut." Schlesinger, who finished a distant third in the US Senate race last year, said the state party needs"dynamic changes" if it is to continue to be a voice in state politics.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Random thoughts...

Wednesday was certainly an interesting day - not to mention long day - at the Capitol as Gov. M. Jodi Rell once again came up with the surprise move - her plan to isignificantly ncrease state aid to education for cities and towns as a means of helping local communities take the burden off local property taxpayers.

It does come with a cost, however - an overall, across the board increase in the state income tax. Republican lawmakers are not pleased with that aspect - nor are the Democrats who would prefer to see a millionaire's tax adopted. (Millionaire, by the way, according to Democratic definitions, is anyone who earns more than $250,000 a year.)

The governor also re-introduced her plan to eliminate the property tax on cars. It's a nice idea, but her plan to cover that loss revenue has virtually no chance of winning any support among lawmakers. To make that work, Rell needs to also eliminate the property tax credit on the income tax - and then grab every nickle from the casino slot fund.

I must admit I'm not overly found of her proposal to increase the tax on cigarettes either.

I was back in Hartford this morning for press conference on the governor's plan to increase passenger rail service on Shoreline East. Democratic members of the southeastern Connecticut delegation (there are no GOP members anymore), gave the governor credit for her initiative - but said it didn't go far, literally.

With the exception of one train - every Shoreline East train starts and ends in Old Saybrook. There is currently one train that actually comes all the way to New London. (I'm not sure why they call it Shoreline East? Or as John Markowicz likes to say, that portion from Old Satybrook to New London should be renamed Shoreline Far East.)

Anyway...I'm taking a three day weekend. Got some other things I need to take care of. I'll be back on Monday, have a good weekend.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Iraq debate...

With virtually all of the focus on Iraq centered on the non-binding resolution in the U.S. Senate, this little tidbit may have gotten lost in the pipeline.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates will once again be in front of the House Armed Services Committee tomorrow, answering questions about the war and its impact on the Pentagon and military services. Gates was there a couple of weeks ago, but had to leave before all the House members on the panel had a chance to get their questions in. I've been told that the committee leadership is breaking a bit with tradition tomorrow, and will allow the junior members to go first in questioning the secretary.

So look for Connecticut's new 2nd District Congressman, Joe Courtney, to get his chance to question Gates about the war and how its costs are going to impact the 2nd District's defense manufacturing industry.

The committee meeting will be braodcast live on C-SPAN. The hearing is scheduled to begin around 9:30 Wednesday morning.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Closer to home...

I spoke with former Congressman Rob Simmons today, and he remains as uncommitted on a potential 2008 rematch with U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, as he has been since conceding the election back in November.

He did say, however, that he is keeping his election campaign office in Mystic open, staffed and up and running, through the end of March. At least two people will remain on the payroll as the campaign goes through the process of raising money to retire the debt left over from the 2006 campaign. Simmons said the campaign ended with about a $30,000 debt - half of which has been paid already.

Simmons said he continues to give a possible run in 2008 "serious consideration," but hasn't made a final decision one way or the other. Simmons lost his re-election bid to as fourth term by just 91-votes our of more than 244,000 ballots cast - the closet House race in the country last year.

"I tell people I'm too young to retire," the 65-year-old Stonington resident said.

He did suggest, however, that a decision might be forthcoming around that end of March time frame. In the meantime, he is also considering several other possible opportunities - both inside and outside public service. He declined to talk about any specific proposals - other than to say that he has told everyone who has expressed an interest from the private sector that he has no intention of leaving Connecticut, and any potential job would have to be based on the idea of him living here.

Simmons said he is flattered when people within the district encourage him to make another bid for Congress, but noted that a number of Republicans who have supported him the past have also told him they didn't support him this time because "they wanted to send George Bush a message."

"They may want to send John McCain a message two years from now," he said, alluding to McCain's potential 2008 presidential bid and his support of the Iraq War. "That's something that has to be considered. If that's what the political process has come down to, it makes a difference."

Monday morning politicking...

I came across this little tidbit this afternoon while browsing the Internet (this from Political Wire):

It seems Alan Schlesinger is looking at another potential Congressional run - but this for the House of Representatives - and in Florida.

Schlesinger, who got 10 percent of the vote in last year's U.S. Senate race here in Connecticut as the Republican challenger in the three-way race featuring U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, now an independent member of the Senate, and former Democratic nominee Ned Lamont.

According to the Palm Beach Post, Schlesinger told a gathering of the Boca Raton Republican Club that he is considering making a bid for the seat now held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Ron Klein - and that he's been spending a few months a year in Palm Beach County for about 20 years and has family there.

Elsewhere...New York Sen. Hillary Clinton has rescheduled her first trip to New Hampshire since forming her presidential exploratory committee for this weekend. She will visit the first-in-the-nation primary state on Saturday - the same day that her colleague, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama has scheduled his big announcement that he is in/out of the race.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Some weekend thoughts...

U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd landed a rather significant endorsement. Former New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Joe Keefe has thrown his support behind Dodd's presidential bid. It's significant in the sense that it is still early in the game, and Keefe is a player in New Hampshire politics - which should result in many more Democrats there at least taking the time to look at Dodd.

On Wednesday of next week, Gov. M. Jodi Rell will present her two-year state budget proposal to the Gweneral Assembly. It is the subject of my Hackett on Politics column that appears in Sunday's Norwich Bulletin. (Okay, a shameless plug - but I mention it because I do enjoy writing the column, so take a look. And you don't even need to leave the comfort of your home to do that. You can access it on the Web at

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Campaign financing....

I've only taken a quick scan at the some of the hundreds of pieces of papers filed with the Federal Elections Commission on Wednesday...and here's a couple of interesting items that immediately popped out at me:

1. U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, ended the year with a sizeable debt - owing $42,330.95.
That isn't surprising since successful challengers in congressional races typically find themselves having to expend more money after an election to set up transition teams that were not part of the campaign budget. Courtney, who has already filed for re-election in 2008, is, however, not off to a bad start - reporting $47,598 cash on hand as of Dec. 31.

2. Former Congressman Rob Simmons had to file an amended finance report for that period going into the election, correcting the amount of cash he actually had on hand at that time. Bottom line, according to his year end filing, Simmons has $9,426.05 cash on hand as of Dec. 31.
What's interesting is that among his campaign expenditures in December are rent payments on his campaign office - which might lead one to speculate that he hasn't ruled out the possible 2008 challenge. It is also noteworthy to point out that his campaign filed an "End of Year" report and not a "Termination" report.

3. U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, who was not up for re-election in 2006, has reported raising $3.2 million in his "2010 Senate Re-election campaign" in the final three months of last year - bringing his total cash on hand figure as of Dec. 31 to $4.9 million.
Dodd, of course, declared his candidacy for president on January 11 - and his presidential campaign will be filing it's first finance report in April. Under FEC rules, Dodd can transfer 95 percent of the money from his Senate campaign to his presidential campaign.

4. Both of the two national congressional political campaigns (the Republican National Congressional Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) were also very active in Connecticut's 2nd District race last year. According to FEC filings, the RNCC spent $2.7 million in opposing Courtney's bid, while the D-Triple-C spent $1.8 million to oppose Simmons' re-election.

5. And finally, in the 2006 Senate campaign that dominated the news much of the year, U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and his Democratic rival Ned Lamont spent a ton of money - more than $34 million combined.
The National Political Journal did some figuring, and has determined that Lamont finished third in the nation in terms of self-financing campaigns, averaging $45 per vote.

I can't mention this enough...both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate pay a base salary of $165,500 a year.

The campaign finance reports are available for viewing on the FEC Web page. You can find them at

Property fight...

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities is holding a press conference in Hartford this afternoon to make thier push to the legislature to extend the conveyance tax - a revenue source for cities and towns that brings in about $40 million statewide. Their argument is that allowing the increase in revenues to expire will cost cities and town much needed revenues at a time when the state is unable to provide sufficient aid to communities to help hold the line on property tax increases.

Realtors, developers and home builders organizations have previously rallied at the Capitol urging lawmakers to allow the conveyance tax to expire - as it's scheduled to do later this year. Their arguement is, with the housing market in a slump, continuing to allow muncipalities to collect a larger percent each time property is transferred will only worsen the overall market.