Friday, March 30, 2007

Primary date

The General Assembly's Government, Administration and Elections Committee unanimously approved the measure to move Connecticut's presidential primary from March 8 to Feb. 5. If approved by the legislature and signed into law by the governor (and she has indicated she sees no problem with that), Connecticut will join 22 other states in voting that day.

Combined, those 23 states make up about 40 percent of the total population of the country. And those states, combined with those holding primaries and caucuses before Feb. 5, represent more than half of the convention delegates who actually get to vote for the party nominees.

I've got more to say about the push for a Super Duper Tuesday in my Sunday column in the paper.

The $10 million question...

Do you have that much?

For anyone hoping to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate, they better.

Tomorrow is the end of the first quarter of 2007, and that means Federal Election Commission campaign finance reports are due to be filed in a couple of weeks showing how all the candidates fared in the important money race during the first three months of the year.

The convention wisdom is that if you don't have at least $10 million, you're pretty much out of it.

Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side and Mitt Romney on the Republian side are expected to lead when the campaigns start announcing their "successes" next week. John McCain has already said he'll fall short of his fundraising goal, and Barack Obama should be prove to be impressive in his ability to capture contributions.

Rudy Guiliani and John Edwards are also expected to be up there. In fact, word is that Edwards has benefitted greatly from a big increase in support since announcing his wife's cancer has returned.

Locally, it could be a deciding point for our own Chris Dodd - who on the surface, anyway, has given the impression that he's doing well in this part of the campaign. Dodd has recently opened campaign offices in Iowa and New Hampshire, and continues to add to his campaign staff. All of that takes money - and he seems to be spending it. Which would suggest, he's also raising it.

By the end of the week, we should have a pretty good of idea of who still in - and who might be on life-support.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

An amusing perspective on things...

Will history repeat itself?

I found this amusing...and an interesting perspecitve. It comes from the Stone Zone, Political Punditry and Oberservation. It's a comparison between two former Vice Presidents, Republican Richard Nixon and Democrat Al Gore.

Nixon: Serves two terms in the House before moving to the Senate.
Gore: Serves two terms in the House before moving to the Senate.

Nixon: As a sitting Vice President loses 1960 presidential election by a razor thin margin after charges of fraud and vote stealing.
Gore: As a sitting Vice President loses 2000 presidential election by a razor thin margin after charges of fraud and vote stealing.

Nixon: Is criticized after his narrow loss for not utilizing the campaign services of Eisenhower the popular incumbent President who has presided over 8 years of economic prosperity.
Gore: Is criticized after his narrow loss for not utilizing the campaign services of Clinton the popular incumbent President who has presided over 8 years of economic prosperity.

Nixon: Gains a national reputation as a debater after televised debate with Nikita Khrushev but loses presidential debate to greener opponent with reputation as a lightweight.
Gore: Gains a national reputation as a debater after televised debate with Ross Perot but loses presidential debate to greener opponent with reputation as a lightweight.

Nxon: Pioneers environmental issues by starting the Environmental Protection Agency (ETA)
Gore: Pioneers environmental issues by publicizing global warming.

Nixon: Goes on Jack Paar and is relaxed and self deprecating, calls himself a "drop-out from the electoral college." Voters wonder where this guy was when he ran for President.
Gore: Goes on Jay Leno and is relaxed and self deprecating. Says he used to be "next President of the United States." Voters wonder where this guy was when he ran for President.

Nixon: Takes a sabbatical from politics. Passes up the next presidential race but endorsement of Goldwater wins him new admirers in his Party's more extreme wing.
Gore: Takes a sabbatical from politics. Passes up the next presidential race but endorsement of Dean wins him new admirers in his Party's more extreme wing.

Nixon: Writes a Cathartic book, "Six Crises" which becomes a best seller.
Gore: Writes a Cathartic book, "An Inconvenient Truth" which becomes a best seller.

Nixon: Tells the ASSOCIATED PRESS he has "no plans to run for President." (1966)
Gore: Tells the ASSOCIATED PRESS he has "no plans to run for President." (2006)

Nixon: Goes on popular comedy show "Laugh In" to retool his reputation as a wooden stiff uncomfortable in his own skin.
Gore: Goes on popular comedy show "Saturday Night Live" to retool his reputation as a wooden stiff uncomfortable in his own skin.

Nixon: Stressing his 8 year Vice Presidential experience in Foreign Affairs, he exploits an unpopular and divisive war and his familiarity to make one of the most dramatic political comebacks in American Presidential history.

Gore: ?

Simmons confirmation

The House is in session today, and among those items expected to come up for a vote are about 50 different nominations, including that of former 2nd District Congressman Rob Simmons as the state's first-ever business advocate.

Simmons won a lot of praise from members of the legislature's Legislative & Executive Nominations Committee during his confirmation hearing last week, not to mention unanimous support in the vote that followed. It is expected that he will will easily win support among the rank and file when his nomination comes up for a vote on the House floor.

Mid week...

I spent the morning at the Capitol, primarily to cover a press conference on the release of the Connecticut Health Foundation's first-ever comprehensive statewide look at Connecticut's community health. It's an interesting study, 264-pages of data collected that should prove useful to policymakers and community public health officials. But the findings are not as specific as one might hope because data isn't always as precise or available as one would like.

One problem - my opinion - is the grouping of all 169 cities and towns into six different categoriess that reportedly allows a community to "get a sense" of what health-related needs exist in their community when there is insufficient localized data on it's own.

The example cited at the press conference looked at a small community like Union, where there may not be enough specific data to offer a precise look at health-related needs. But by grouping it with other "rural towns" the overall assessment would most closely be reflective of what those needs might be.

There's a similar, but seperate, study under way looking specifically at New London County that will be released next week. That study is being done from regional health districts and area hospitals, and should prove a more precise look at what exactly the health-related needs are here in this part of the state. That study will likely provide far more precise data for public health officials around here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

And more...

There will be a public hearing on the proposal to change the primary date this Friday, 9 a.m., at the Legislative Office Building at the Capitol.

CT to join the rush....

Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, and several lawmakers, are making the argument to move Connecticut's primary from March to Feb. 5 - a national trend these days that is shaping up to be a "national primary" on that date.

By latest counts, if every state looking to move their primary to the Feb. 5 date does in fact do that, more than half the delegates to the Republican and Democratic conventions would be chosen on that date - pretty much deciding who the nominees for both parties would be. Those states scheduled for primaries after Feb. 5 would virtually have little - if none at all - voice in the selection process.

What do you think?

Moving up....?

It appears Connecticut may want to join with other states and reschedule the date of its presidential primary, now planned for March. With California and New York - and a host of other states - making the move to Feb. 5, and Florida lookinig at going the week before that, anyone planning on holding a primary after that would seem to be missing out on having any real impact on choosing the nominees.

Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz has scheduled a press conference for 11 a.m. this morning to announce "changes" in the Connecticut presidential primary. The details of those changes are not being released early, so we'll just have to wait and see what she is proposing.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The GOP presidential race...

Arizona Sen. John McCain, once considered the dominate front-runner in the Republican 2008 presidential sweepstakes, seems to be hitting the proverbial bump in the road.

First, over the weekend McCain acknowledged his campaign would fall short of its fundraising goals for the first quarter of 2007, and then brushed that aisde as just "one of those things in a campaign," and attributed it to a slow start. He said he expects former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to be out in front when the FEC reports are filed later this week.

The Romney campaign shot back, disputing reports of a $30 million to $35 million filing to be made, down-sizing his report to more like $20 million. They also claim they expect McCain to lead the pack.

Second, McCain's lead over former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani is slipping - in Arizona of all places, acccording to a Rocky Mountain Poll. It's the first time in his home state where he hasn't held a double digit lead over Guiliani, now his main challenger for the GOP nomination (although I still wouldn't rule out Romney as the dark horse in this contest).

But all three could find themselves surprised later this year. According to the Political Wite, former Tennesse Senator, and TV star, Fed Thompson's wife is urging him to get into the race. Thompson, who has yet to say whether he will or he won't (but has said he is "very interested"), is polling well at this point with about 6 percent support in national polls. Not bad for someone only rumored to be interested in making the plunge.

Friday, March 23, 2007

the spending cap...

I've been critical of state lawmakers on this blog and my Sunday column for their unwillingness to talk about the state spending cap. They love to talk about spending - they just don't seem to like to talk about limits on it.

Well on Monday, in Hartford, they will be talking about just that. However, the focus of the discussion is on reaasons why and how to "reform" the constitutional mandated spending cap. The informational hearing is being held at 1 p.m. in Room 2E at the Legislative Office Building.

The human side...

Every now and then, the human side of politics steps to the forefront. The unfortunate part is that it usually that part of the human condition that none of us would wish upon another. I'm talking about yesterday's disclosure that Elizabeth Edwards cancer has returned.

Political observers are trying to determine what this will mean on the Edwards campaign as he continues his pursuit for the Democratic nomination. Over on the CNN Political Ticker, Democratic strategist Dane Strother summed it up rather directly.

"It makes him real. It makes her real."

And that's because millions of Americans themselves have faced cancer or know someone who has, and can identify with their challenge. If Mrs. Edwards is able to campaign at his side with energy and vigor, there could well be a positive reaction to the resolute candidate and his wife, who press forward despite adversity.

But, those political calculations could quickly change should her condition worsen significantly.

I'm going to have more to say on this in my Hackett on Politics column this Sunday.

Currently Edwards is running third behind NY Sen. Hilliary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in most national polls, and leading in a couple of individual state polls, such as Iowa.

This what the two frontrunners had to say after hearing the news:

"Elizabeth Edwards is a wonderful and strong woman and I think all our thoughts and prayers go out to her, and to John and their children, and their entire family. I admire her optimism and I'm encouraged by her resolve that she's going to continue with her life and I look forward to seeing her on campaign trail."

“Today, Michelle and I join every American in sending our thoughts and prayers to Elizabeth and John and the entire Edwards family. We all admire Elizabeth’s strength and determination and the deep love they so obviously share.”

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Full-time vs. part-time...

Once again, the Connecticut legislature is considering proposals to make serving in the General Assembly a full-time position, rather than the part-time job it is now. Several proposals will be subjects of public hearings in the coming weeks, including one that would increase salaries for legislative leaders to that equal of the Lieutenant governor - $110,000 a year. Another proposal would increase salaries of all 187 legislators, who now earn in the mid- $20,000 to mid-$30,000 range.

The driving factor behind this movement is an effort to bring an end to "conflicts" that lawmakers run into when their "work" overlaps their legislative duties.

So what do you think. I'm guessing this idea doesn't have a lot of public support.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Democrats faltering on Iraq vote...

The tough talk last week in the U.S. House of Representatives about the Iraq supplemental funding bill - and the inclusion of a definite time line for withdrawal of troops - isn't proving to be so tough. It now appears that a vote on the bill, scheduled for tomorrow, maybe delayed because there isn't enough support among Democrats to pass it in the House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is still talking tough - only now she's directing that tough talk at her own caucus members who are claiming to be undecided or made a decision to oppose the measure. She's even going as far, supposedly, of threatening some with the lose of committee seats.

Connecticut's 2nd District Congressman Joe Courtney supports the measure, and he'll interviewed on C-SPAN in the morning explaining his position on the funding portion as well as the time table. Courtney is scheduled to appear at around 8:20 a.m. for the 20-minute, live nationally-televised interview.

Speaking of GOP presidential candidates...

Connecticut now has an official Draft Fred Thompson movement under way.

Neal Yates of New Hartford has been appointed to head up the effort of druming up public support for a Thompson candidacy, hopefully convincing the former Senator and current TV actor to throw his hat into the ring. (Thompson is the District Attorny on the NBC television series Law & Order).

Thompson has conceded in recent television interviews that he is considering it....but hasn't given any indication of when he might make a decision.

Yates, formerly of Mystic, is the founder of Yates Communications, a strategic writing and legacy marketing firm. Following college and a stint in the army, he began his writing career in 1969, with the Hartford Courant. After 10 years as The Courant’s Western Connecticut news bureau chief he served as state editor of the award-winning Litchfield County Times. In 1983 he joined CIGNA where he was a manager of editorial publications, group account executive for CIGNA Healthcare, and senior marketing consultant for CIGNA Real Estate Partners.Recruited by Charlotte Hungerford Hospital as its director of development, Yates served as vice president for community relations and fund development in the parent, two-hospital system. In 1990, after 22 years of hands-on experience in journalism, advertising, marketing, corporate communication and non-profit healthcare, he opened Yates Communication.

Interesting development....

California Congressman Duncan Hunter, one of the lower tier Republican contenders in the 2008 presidential sweepstakes, will not seek re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives next year. Instead, his 30-year-old son, Duncan D. Hunter, is getting ready to mount a campaign to take over that seat.

I found that interesting because Hunter, during a campaign visit to Electric Boat last year on behalf of former Congressman Rob Simmons "guaranteed' me that money for a second submarine contract would be approved this year. Hunter, at the time, was chairman of the House Armed Services Committee - the committee that "authorized" funding for a second sub in 2009. (But unfortunately, that authorization wasn't backed up with the actual money to do it - raising the question as to whether merely "authorizing" without funding was nothing more than just a political ploy to help Simmons in his re-election bid.)

Hunter is now the ranking member on the committee now that Democrats have taken over control of Congress, and I would suspect he still supports the idea of funding for a second sub. But I'm not sure just how active he is in pushing for that this year with his presidential campaign obviously the major focal point of his thinking at the moment - and now, no future plans to continue in Congress.

Another GOP challenger?

A new name is being mentioned as a possible Republican challenger in the 2008 2nd District race, but it appears that the individual being mentioned isn't all that keen about the idea.

Former State Rep. Andrew Norton of Colchester is being mentioned by several as possibly being interested. Norton made a bid for the seat back in 1996, but lost the GOP nomination to Ed Munster, who was making his third attempt to defeat former Congressman Sam Gejdenson. Norton spent some time working for Gov. John G. Rowland after that, most notably as the governor's front man when the state was trying to market the old Norwich State Hospital property. He most recently served as chief of staff for House Republicans at the Capitol.

As I was leaving the Capitol yesterday following the Rob Simmons confirmation hearing, I ran into Norton and asked if there was any truth that he was considering making a run. He said although it is "a nice idea to think about," he personally wouldn't put his name on anyone's list as a possible candidate.

That's not exactly a strong no...nor an even a weak maybe. But with at least two potential challengers expected to get into the race early next month - former Groton Sub Base Commander Sean Sullivan and former Regional FEMA Director Dan Craig - Norton would need to move quickly if he were planning to get in - and he didn't strike me yesterday as moving in that direction.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

One down...

Rob Simmons won the unanimous support of the legislature's Executive & Legislative Nominations Committe this afternoon to become the first-ever business advocate. He only needs full House and Senate approval to go, and both are expected and could happen within a week or two.


I'm in Hartford today for the confirmation hearing for former Congressman Rob Simmons. As most of you know, Gov. M. Jodi Rell has nominated Simmons to be the state's first-ever business advocate.

But I've been reading in some other publications and Web sites were some folks are under the impression that this is patronage position created by Rell to take care of unemployed Republicans - which isn't really the case. This position was actually created by the Democratic leadership in the General Assembly.

Last year, in her budget address to the legislature, Rell proposed combining the state's economic development agencies - bringing everything under one roof. But Democrats in the legislature rejected that idea, and instead decided to create this new position within the state Department of Community and Economic Development. Rell waited until after last year's election to fill the post - and, as it happens, Simmons found himself available (having lost his re-election bid to U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District).

It's a four-year appointment that will pay an annual salary of $75,000 a year. The "office" will be funded at $535,000 a year and probably consist of a staff of no more than three, possibly four people - including Simmons. The primary responsibility of the position is to assist businesses, particularly small businesses, grow and prosper. Simmons will no doubt be questioned today on how he plans to do just that.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The anniversary

It's the fourth anniversary to the start of the war in Iraq...and needless to say, America's support for it has waned substantially.

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released this morning finds support for the war in Iraq has dropped by 40 points in the last four years, while the number of Americans who say they strongly oppose the war has more than doubled.

Just after the war began four years ago, 72% of Americans said they favored the war; today only 32% do.

Monday morning...

An interesting bit of news about Attorney General Richard Blumenthal over the weekend. It seems he has made a decision to go for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2010. One of the criticism that Democrats have had of him in the past is that he's always waited too long to say what his plans are...thus creating a situation in the last two gubernatorial campaigns were candidates interested in making a bid had to sit and wait, or pull out of the race because they were having trouble raising money because no one knew sure where Blumenthal would play.

Well...that doesn't appear to be the situation this time with a very clear, and very early decision.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Dodd's efforts...

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, who still lanquishes deep in the back of the pack of Democratic presidential hopefuls will be spending this weekend in New Hampshire.

Dodd will be making stops in Hampton, Concord and Manchester Saturday and Sunday.

The 2008 primary season

Now that California has decided to move its primary from June to Feb. 5, and a dozen other states also considering opening their polling places on Feb. 5 as well, including Texas, New York and New Jersey to name a few of the larger ones, the importance of winning those early primary and caucus contests becomes critical.

An early win can provide the momentum to grab the nomination on the 5th of February when nearly half the total delegates to the national conventions will be decided. It's probably even that much more important on the Republican side of the ledger where the top three are scrambling - and a host of others are toying with the idea of jumping into the contest.

A new poll out of New Hampshire shows just how close things are:

According to a new Franklin Pierce College/WBZ-TV poll shows John McCain leading Rudy Giuliani 29 to 28% among likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters.. Former Massahcusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is a close third with 22%.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

the Iraq debate...

The war in Iraq is being debated in both the House and Senate this week.

Earlier today, the House Appropriations Committee approved a supplemental appropriations bill that includes a provision calling for the withdrawal of American Forces by August 2008.

Here's what U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, had to say:

"The Iraq supplemental funding bill is a balanced compromise that I will support. Connecticut's courageous military families may now have hope that the end to the Iraq war is finally in sight. They have sacrificed the most for our country, and we owe them leadership in Washington, DC that is worthy of their service. As our servicemen and women return home, it is the Congress, not the Bush Administration that is working to get veterans the health care and benefits owed to them. When I was elected to Congress, I promised that I would reasonably and safely begin a drawdown of this conflict and this is an important step in that direction."

Meanwhile in the Senate, the debate continues and here's where Sens. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., stand:

Dodd (who supports a hard date for withdrawal)
“While this resolution before us does not represent as forceful an approach to accomplishing that goal as I would propose, it does take the United States one stop closer to ending U.S. combat involvement in Iraq. And for that reason I am going to support it as the first step in the right direction. But based on past experience, I have no confidence that this President will pay any attention to this resolution or this congressional debate. So I would say to our colleagues, if you are truly sincere in your support for the policies expressed in this legislation, then you must be prepared to do more in the coming days to bring an end to this destructive and futile policy, including the exercise of the Congressional power of the purse.”

“We need to stop financing the Administration's reckless strategy and put critical resources into rebuilding our military. Our troops deserve no less from this Congress.”

“How many debates, how many reports, how many killed and wounded, until the President and his advisers will acknowledge the President's Iraq policy has been a failure from almost the outset?”

Lieberman (who opposes setting a date)
"The question we now confront is simple: will Congress give General Petraeus and his troops a fighting chance to succeed?

"The joint resolution before us would deny them that chance, forcing our troops to break off the battle of Baghdad before it has barely begun. Instead of providing General Petraeus with the necessary reinforcements he has requested—the reinforcements he is counting on—it would begin to strip troops away from him.

"We need to be clear with ourselves, and with the nation, on this point: the joint resolution we are debating would impose a fixed date for the beginning of a withdrawal. One hundred twenty days after this legislation is passed, American forces would be required by law to begin redeploying out of Iraq. This would happen regardless of conditions on the ground, regardless of the recommendations of General Petraeus, regardless of the wishes of our allies, regardless of whether security is improving or deteriorating.

"It would bind the hands of General Petraeus, substituting the judgment of Congress for the judgment of our military commanders, our diplomats, and of our friends in the region.

"Congress has many responsibilities, but the micromanagement of war is not one of them. "


The youth vote...

There is no question that young voters played a major role in the 2006 mid-term elections, and there is now a push on in Hartford to attract even more younger voters to the polls.But the number of younger voters who turn out at the polls, although on the rise, still lags well behind other age groups.

A Constitutional amendment is being offered that would, if approved, allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries provided they will turn 18 years of age by the time that year's general election rolls around. Seventeen year olds can now pre-register to vote if they will be celebrating their 18th birthday prior to the election.

The measure is currently in front of the legislature's Governament, Administration and Elections Committee. It would require two-thirds support in both the state House and state Senate chambers, and then voter approval at next year's November election. (Constitutional amendments can only be placed on Connecticut's ballot for voter approval in even numbered years.)

If it were to survive all those hurdles, the earliest 17-year-olds would be able to vote in a primary election would be in 2009.

So..since you, the voter, would have to approve this change to the state Constitution...what do you think about the idea?

And if it matters, eight other states already allow this.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Immigration bill....

As you might know by now, the proposed legislation that would have allowed undocumented children of immigrants to attend state universities and colleges here in Connecticut at the in-state rate has died in committee.

Republican members of the Higher Education Committee used a fillibuster Tuesday to block any vote from being taken - thus the effort is over.

It was, and remains, a hot-button issue with strong opinions on both sides of the argument. My sense is that it's not going to go away, but will continue to remain a highly-charged issue for some time to come.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Dodd and the hometown connection...

Speaking of Dodd's presidential bid and the home turf issue (see the last blog posting), the senator isn't getting much support from a key group of Connecticut folks - the trial lawyers. Seem they're sticking with their favorite presidential hopeful, former Sen. and 2004 Democratic Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards. There are two fundraisers planned for Edwards here in Connecticut in the coming months.

One major player in that group, however, won't be in attendance - Congressman Joe Courtney, who four years ago served as Edwards' Connecticut Campaign Chairman. Courtney, who won election to the U.S. House of Representatives last year, is backing fellow Democrat Dodd at this point.

JJB Dinner...

This year's Democratic Jackson, Jefferson, Bailey Dinner, the annual Democratic major fundraiser for the state party, posed some problems for local officials. The biggest problem was who to invite as this year's main speaker. (It's an important question because this is a fundraiser first and foremost - so having the "right" speaker is important to selling tickets to the event.)

Last year, the featured speaker was Illinois Sen. Barack Obama - and he filled the room. And that was before he started being mentioned seriously as a presidential contender. should come as no surprise...many Democrats in the state were hoping to grab another of the major presidential contenders as this year's main speaker (got to fill the hall). But that would have presented a bit of sticky problem for state Democrats since Connecticut's own presidential contender - U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd - wanted nothing like that to take place. The last thing the Senator needed was having one of his chief rivals come into the state and upstage him.

So we won't be having one of the major presidential hopefuls addressing the gathering of state Democrats next month. Although the backup choice of featured speakers is not a bad one. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is the main draw this year - the first woman ever to hold that spot. A "safe" choice that should bring a full house out (it is a fundraiser) while not upsetting anybody's apple cart.

The JJB dinner is scheduled to be held Friday, April 20.

And that, too, caused a bit of problem.

U.S. Sen. Joeph Lieberman, the Democrat who now serves as an independent after losing the Democratic primary last year, has been invited to not only attend the dinner - but also offered the opportunity to address the crowd along with all the other elected officials. (For those who did not attend last year's JJB dinner, it was not a very pleasant scene as Lieberman got no respect from the audience during his remarks.)

But it's unclear if Lieberman will be attending this year, because the dinner is being held at the start of Sabbath. Another "safe" decision allowing the party to extend the invitation while giving everybody an easy out of an uncomfortable position.

GOP search in 2nd District...

And now it appears there are only two.

Bozrah First Selectman Keith Robbins has taken his name out of consideration as a potential 2nd District challenger to U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney in 2008. In Hartford yesterday I also talked with State Rep. Pam Sawyer, R-Bolton, another whose name is mentioned frequently as a potential candidate. She, too, is not interested at this point.

So that leaves what appears to be only two still considerating making the move. Sean Sullivan, the former base commander at the Groton Submarine Base and Daniel Craig, the former FEMA regional director originally from Deep River but now living and working in Washington , DC.

If either of them decides to get into the race, I wouldn't expect a formal announcement to come before April 1. The reason for that is because the first quarter FEC financial reports are due on March 31 - and no one would want to jump in now and have to file a finance report at this stage of the game with virtually no money to show for the effort. By coming in after April 1, they at least buy themselves three months before the next FEC filing is due, and the chance to demonstrate some support.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Dodd on TV tonight...

U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd takes his presidential hopes to the small screen tonight in what seems to have become a new tradition in politics. Dodd will be appearing on the "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

Monday morning...

It will be off to Hartford this afternoon for a couple of legislativeve hearings.

The Appropriations Commimttee is taking up three bills relating to the slot money generated at the two Indian-run casinos here in Eastern Connecticut, the objective of all is to increase the amount local communities receive from the fund.

Also today, the Judiciary Committee is taking a proposal that would fund a pardon's assistance program, which if enacted, could be benefit for the Norwich-based Connecticut Pardon Team. Under the program, Connecticut residents who have completed their parole and sentences for past convictions, and have stayed out of trouble for five years, can erasde their records by apply for a pardon.

Tomorrow in Hartford, the controversial proposal that would allow undocumented immigrant children to obtain in-state tuition at Connecticut colleges and universities is up for a vote.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Mayors, weak and strong...

On Tuesday, voters in New London will go to the polls to decide if the city charter should be amended to create a strong mayoral-form of government in the city. Currently the mayor is a ceremonial position, selected by members of the City Council from within their representatives on the council and serving one of the two years in the term.

There is a slightly different mayoral battle being waged in Norwich to the north. The city manager and the mayor have taken their ongong feud public - and it now appears that there is change coming before the end of the year. I've got more to say about the Norwich situation in this week's column in the Norwich Bulletin.

It will be interesting to see how voters in New London respond to their situation on Tuesday.

Gubernatorial powers...

Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell may blow away her 49 gubernatorial colleagues in terms of popularity, but according to a new survey of gubernatorial power - Connecticut's governor is rated in the middle of the pack of the nation's 50 governors.

The survey, conducted by North Carolina Political Science Professor Thad Beyle for Stateline magazine, rated the 50 governors' influence in relationship to tenure, budget authority, appointment and veto power, and control of the state legislature.

Rell, just starting her first full-term in office, has veto power but the state legislature is controlled by Democrats with a super majority able to over-ride her veto - and as such, her control over the state budget and appointments must be approved by the legislature.

Connecticut was rated at 3.6 out of a possible 5, just above the national average of 3.5.

Massachusetts was rated as having the most influencial governor with a power rating of 4.3.

A new political act - and actor?

We've had one actor serve as president, and by all accounts, he served well. So why not another?

There's a new effort being made to draft former Tennessee Sen. FredThompson as a Republican candidate for the presidency. You probably know him better as the district attorney on the NBC television series Law & Order.

According to the Hill newspaper in Washington, former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker (R-TN) was in Washington, D.C. yesterday reaching out to Senators to test support for a Thompson bid.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Dodd's presidency....

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd's Presidential Campaign today announced the formation of its leadership team - an impressive group for someone who still lanquishes in the bottom of pack of would-be Democratic hopefuls.

Here's a look at who's signing on Dodd's bandwagon, and what they had to say about him:

Representatives Xavier Becerra (D-CA) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), former National Conference for Community and Justice President and CEO Sanford Cloud, Jr., and former Tennessee Senator and Ambassador to China James Sasser will lead Dodd's campaign, providing counsel and guidance as he continues his quest for the presidency.
"The people who lead my campaign are, in a way, a cross-section of America, representing backgrounds diverse in geography, race, and biography," said Dodd. "But they share one very important thing: a commitment to changing this country."
Becerra, who serves as Assistant to the Speaker of the House, has represented the Los Angeles area since 1992. He serves on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, where he is both the first Latino in the post, as well as the only current member from Southern California represented on the Committee.
"When people focus on experience, straight-out transparent honesty and integrity, they'll find that Senator Dodd is second to none. No one works harder to increase opportunities for working families than Chris Dodd," said Becerra. "Chris Dodd truly is the 'Children's Senator,' making children's issues a priority before it was fashionable, as they say. And being fluent in Spanish, Dodd also has a wonderful capacity to reach Hispanic communities."
DeLauro, who represents the New Haven area of Connecticut, is the former Chief of Staff to Senator Dodd. She has served alongside Dodd as part of the Connecticut delegation since 1990 when she was first elected. She sits on the influential House Appropriations Committee, where she is chairwoman of the Agriculture-FDA Appropriations Subcommittee and as a member of the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education and Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittees. She has served as co-chair of the House Steering and Policy Committee since 2002.
"Having worked for Chris Dodd before I worked with him, I know as well as anyone that he knows how to get things accomplished in Washington. He's made a career by rising above partisan gridlock and partnering with Republicans to pass important legislation such as the Family and Medical Leave and child care grants," said DeLauro. "We need a president with real experience who won't need on-the-job training."
James Sasser is a former Senator who represented the state of Tennessee from 1976 until 1995. In 1990, he became the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee. In that role, he engineered passage of President Bill Clinton's first budget, which reduced the deficit by $500 billion dollars over 10 years, but passed without any Republican votes.
Sasser was appointed ambassador to the People's Republic of China by President William Jefferson Clinton in 1995, where he served until 2001.
"In an increasingly volatile world, we need a president who has historical perspective and a sensitive appreciation of situations across the globe," said Sasser. "Chris Dodd doesn't just fill a seat on the Foreign Relations Committee; he's played a central role in nearly every foreign policy debate over the last quarter-century. From the crisis in the Middle East to Latin America, where his experience leads back to his Peace Corps days, Americans will have a president with unparalleled foreign policy knowledge in Dodd."
Sanford Cloud, Jr. was the President and CEO of National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) from 1994 until 2004. Mr. Cloud, a lawyer who has been active in encouraging private and public sector investments and philanthropic initiatives that aid people of color and the economically disadvantaged, is the first African American to lead NCCJ since its founding. For most of the decade since 1997, Mr. Cloud has convened leading thinkers with opposing perspectives in nationally telecast discussions known as The National Conversation on Race, Ethnicity and Culture. He is a former State Senator from Connecticut who has known Senator Dodd since childhood.
"Chris Dodd has been my friend for as long as I can remember," said Sanford ("Sandy") Cloud, Jr. "and I know two things about him: He tells a great story and he knows how to win. Whether he's winning Homeland Security grants for firefighters or holding corporate leaders accountable for scandals like Enron, Chris Dodd never shies away from a fight, and he always wins for America."

Sub hearing...

UPDATE: The actual video from this opening session is now available to view at Additional video from the hearing will be posted later this afternoon and early evening .

Freshman Democrat Joe Courtney was the one who asked for a hearing today in Washington on the future of the Virginia class submarine. The hearing, being held before the House Armed Services Seapower & Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee, convened at 2 p.m.

This is what Courtney, whose district includes submarine builder Electric Boat, had to say at the opening of the session:

"Chairman Taylor, let me first thank you for holding this important hearing. Since I joined this committee you and your staff have been an incredible help to me. I also want to thank our witnesses for being here today, especially John Casey of Electric Boat."

"As the Congressman for Connecticut's Second District, I am intimately familiar with the subject matter before us - our nuclear attack submarine fleet. Whether you visit Sub Base New London or talk to yard workers at Electric Boat, it is easy to see the tremendous pride that everyone connected with the submarine program in Southeastern Connecticut has for the work they do. This pride is well earned and I am proud to represent this important region here in Congress."

"There are critical challenges facing the attack submarine fleet that I am interested in addressing here today. First, I am concerned that our SSN procurement rate allows the size of our submarine fleet drop below the Navy's own stated force requirements and fails to invest in the fleet we need to address the long term strategic threats ahead. Second, I am alarmed by the lack of investment in sustaining the very specialized submarine design workforce. Finally, given the fact that we have key leaders in Congress who are interested in increasing naval shipbuilding this year, I am interested in finding ways that all the stakeholders - Congress, the Navy and the submarine industry - can get to two submarines per year earlier than 2012."

"Based on the Navy's own stated force requirements, we need to sustain an attack submarine level of at least 48 boats. However, under the current shipbuilding plan, our nation will have fewer than that for a 14 year period between 2020 and 2033 -- with a low of 40 ships from 2028 to 2029. The drastic drop in the SSN level is due to the retirement of the Los Angles-Class Submarine, slated to begin retiring in numbers anywhere between one to four boats beginning in FY2014 while being replaced with one or two Virginia-class SSNs. We simply will not be building enough ships to replace those going out of service."

"Last week, front page stories in the Washington Times and Los Angeles Times detailed China's major buildup of submarines -- including five new strategic nuclear-missile boats and several advanced nuclear-powered attack submarines. It really is just a matter of simple math that the size of our fleet is going to be significantly smaller than the Chinese navy's under our current submarine building plan."

"If the fleet we build today is the fleet that protects us tomorrow, then the current shipbuilding plan does not adequately invest in the attack submarine fleet we need to address future threats -- both known and unanticipated."

"We are also not building or designing enough submarines to sustain our submarine construction and design workforces - both true national treasures that we cannot afford to lose. The submarine construction and design workforce are highly specialized fields with unique technical and manufacturing capabilities. I am deeply concerned that continuing to delay the procurement of a second Virginia class submarine and postponing the design of the next generation SSBN submarine will do serious and long standing harm to these critical workforces. They are not easily duplicated or reconstituted should they be allowed to fade away."

"The British experience with their Astute-class development program is a significant warning against letting our submarine construction and design workforce slip away. In this case, they allowed their submarine design and engineering workforce atrophy for years from lack of submarine design work. As a result, the Astute-class design program faced extensive delays and cost overruns as they struggled to recapture that specialized knowledge and experience. In the end, the UK was forced to rely on designers from Electric Boat to help overcome these hurdles."

"This example should serve as a clear warning to this committee and this Congress. Yet, for the first time in nearly 50 years, we are not designing the next generation submarine. This places us in the very alarming position of permanently damaging a very specialized workforce that cannot be replaced with the snap of the fingers."

"Last year the Navy asked the RAND Corporation to look into a strategy to preserve the submarine design and engineering base. Their report, expected to be published soon, concludes that the most effective way to maintain this critical workforce is to begin design work on the next generation of SSBN sooner and over a longer period of time.

The bottom line is that as we look to the long term challenges ahead, it is clear that the most important action that we can take in the short term is to increase attack submarine procurement to two a year as soon as possible."

"We can all agree that the Virginia-class program is a true shipbuilding success story, especially in light of other challenges we see in other shipbuilding programs. Again and again, the talented workforce in Groton and Newport News exceed expectations by delivering an unmatched product on budget, on schedule and performing at record levels. The shipyards and the industrial base have made tremendous progress towards meeting the Navy's cost target of $2 billion per boat by FY2012."

"It is clear that the Navy supports the 30-year shipbuilding plan and is concerned about the impact of any changes by Congress in the submarine program will have on their overall shipbuilding strategy. With no constraints or fiscal limitations, I believe all of us would come to the same conclusion - that under our current plan we are simply not constructing enough submarines today to meet the challenges of the future."

"This year we are fortunate to have the leadership of Chairmen Jack Murtha, Ike Skelton and Gene Taylor, all of whom have committed to increasing our investment in shipbuilding this year - including the addition of another Virginia-class SSN. To this end, I am interested to examine ways in which all of the stakeholders - the Congress, the Navy and the submarine industry - can find a way to move forward in this goal together."

"I look forward to discussing these important issues with our witnesses. Once again, thank you, Chairman Taylor, for holding this hearing today."


The House Armed Services Committee's Seapower & Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee will open its hearing on the future of the Virginia-class submarine at 2 p.m. this afternoon. The issue here is when does the U.S. Navy increase submarine production from one- to two-per year. The Navy has that scheduled for 2012. Connecticut's congressional delegation has been lobbying to have that timetable moved up to 2008 or 2009.

Navy officials will testify first, followed by EB President John Casey and others.

Adding her voice to the discussion today is Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who submitted written testimony through U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney's, D-2nd District, office. Courtney, a member of the committee, requested today's meeting and he will have his own remarks later.

Here's what the governor had to say in her testimony:

“As the Governor of Connecticut I am, of course, interested in the jobs the two Virginia-class submarines would bring to our state. But equally important is my concern that the failure to move to two submarines per year will result in layoffs that could, in turn, affect the capability of our industrial base to continue to design and build these magnificent ships.
“By delaying, for over a decade, the initial planned increase in production to two ships per year, the Navy has forced Electric Boat to layoff thousands of highly skilled workers. It's time to turn this around! We need to build two submarines a year. But will we find that our finest submarine designers, engineers and builders are not here to do the job?

"The stealth and lethality of submarines makes them unique as a class of ships. They also play a special role in the Global War on Terror. If you need proof of the value of submarines after the Cold War, ask any special operations forces personnel their preferred method of clandestine insertion: The answer is always a submarine because of its stealth.

"Submarines are a critical part of our intelligence network. The secret successes of the submarine force against terrorist targets are rarely reported. But the Navy’s decision to open a counter-terrorism center at Sub Base New London should give you a clue as to where the action is in today's fleet.

Governor Rell noted in her testimony that both Committee Chairman U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) and Ranking Member Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) had visited Groton-based Electric Boat. The Governor extended an offer to the other committee members to visit the nation’s premier submarine builder at any time.

Citing the stress long deployments can have on the families of sailors, the Governor said she is proud of the support Connecticut gives military families but said such stresses would be reduced if more submarines were available to handle the numerous current demands.

Governor Rell also noted the reports of increased submarine construction in other nations, including China, and the continuing threat of terrorism.

"Submarines have the stealth, agility, mobility, persistence and firepower to meet our nation’s security needs,” the Governor testified. “The Congress needs to apply our tax dollars to funding two Virginia-class submarines per year and I hope that the subcommittee will encourage them to do just that.”

The flu and other things...

There was a report issued earlier this week that the flu season is in full swing in Connecticut....and I can attest to that. It's a nasty little bug this year that will knock you down for a few days. And even when you get up, it will still take a day or two to regain your strength.

Elsewhere...U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, will be conducting a hearing in Washington today with other members of the Armed Services' Seapower & Expeditionary Subcommittee on the future of the Virginia class submarine. The goal is to convince lawmakers that we need to start building two subs a year before the Navy's scheduled increase in production in 2012. The Navy will be testifying today, and how they see this proposal will likely be a key in what the final outcome will be.

Former Congressman Rob Simmons made his first unofficial appearance Wednesday as the state's first-ever business advocate. Simmons joined Gov. M. Jodi Rell in addressing a gathering of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association at the state Capitol yesterday. The legislature is expected to take up Simmons' nomination to the post later this month, maybe as early as next week.

And later today, in another ceremony at the Capitol, 10 state veterans, including a veteran of the Civil War from Killingly - Edward Washburn Whitaker - will be inducted into the state's Veterans' Hall of Fame.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Tis the season...

Flu season arrived late this year...but it did arrive...and I can attest to it. And I have no great desire to repeat last year when I found myself laid up for nearly two I'm going to try and be smarter this year and lay low and let thing pass.