Ned Lamont announced Tuesday he is a candidate for Connecticut governor, vowing to build on the excitement of his 2006 Senate bid and rejuvenate the state's flagging economy.
Addressing more than 100 enthusiastic supporters, including many who backed his challenge of Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Greenwich businessman called on the crowd to join his latest political fight.
"We stood up to the political establishment. We stood up to the conventional wisdom and we made a difference," said Lamont, who defeated Lieberman in the Democratic primary but later lost to the senator in the general election when Lieberman ran as an independent.
"I'm here to ask you to stand up again," said Lamont, arguing that his experience as a successful businessman is what's needed to "get Connecticut going again."
The Connecticut governor's race appears to be wide open since Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, announced she would not run for re-election. Besides Lamont, there are four other Democratic candidates — former Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy, Simsbury First Selectwoman Mary Glassman, Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi and health care advocate Juan Figueroa — seeking the party nomination.
The four still have exploratory committees and have not yet officially committed to running for governor. There are also at least eight Republicans, including Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele, who are running or considering a run for governor.
Some of Lamont's Democratic opponents criticized the wealthy businessman, who spent $16 million of his own money in the Senate race, for announcing Tuesday he is opting out of Connecticut's public campaign financing program.
"I'm a big believer in clean campaigns but I'm not going to go into this battle with one arm tied behind my back," said Lamont, who founded a cable television company that services colleges and universities.
At least one Republican candidate, Greenwich businessman Tom Foley, has opted out of the voluntary system — which limits how much money candidates can raise and spend — and committed to spending millions of his own money.
Malloy has called on Lamont to abide by the spending limits contained in the campaign financing law.
"You're not going to beat Tom Foley by being Tom Foley," Malloy said. "You beat Tom Foley by nominating someone who stands in stark contrast to him, someone who can provide all the voters — Democrats, unaffiliated voters and Republicans — with a clear choice."
Glassman said she is proud to participate in the state's public campaign financing system, which is currently in limbo because of a federal court ruling.
"Most people in Connecticut aren't millionaires. They work for a living and so do I," she said. "The Democratic Party has always represented these people and I believe Democrats need to be certain our candidate will continue to represent all of Connecticut and not just a moneyed few."
A Quinnipiac Poll from January showed that 27 percent of registered Democrats would back Lamont in a primary.