Lauretti reacts to no statewide run: ‘Disappointed’ but proud of what he accomplished

Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti said despite falling short in petition signatures to qualify for the Republican primary for lieutenant governor, he has a positive view of his run for statewide office this year.

“I think we accomplished a great deal in five months — with the money I raised, 1,900 donors, and 6,700 signatures,” Lauretti said Tuesday, after learning his campaign had only turned in 6,723 valid petition signatures.

He needed to submit the signatures of 8,190 registered Connecticut Republicans to make the primary ballot.

His campaign — working with that of then-gubernatorial candidate Mark Boughton, who is mayor of Danbury — had handed in about 9,000 signatures to be verified.

It is routine for some petition signatures to be ruled invalid, usually because the signers are not registered voters or are not registered in the appropriate party.

‘Heck of an effort’

“Obviously, I’m disappointed,” Lauretti said of the outcome. “I think we made a heck of an effort. Everything became a function of time. We had 18 days to do it, having lost 10 days in the transition.”

He said with those extra days between the Republican State Convention and when his campaign began circulating petitions, he likely would have been able to secure the needed signatures.

Strong fund-raising

Lauretti had started this year's statewide campaign running for governor, and impressed people with his fund-raising abilities. He was trying to raise $250,000 in contributions of $100 or less to qualify for the state’s public financing campaign.

But his gubernatorial campaign failed to gain much momentum in the polls, and then he did poorly among delegates at the Republican State Convention, failing to automatically qualify for the primary for governor.

Teaming up with Boughton

A few days after the convention, Lauretti hooked up with Boughton to run as a team. Boughton had qualified for the GOP gubernatorial primary at the convention, and was looking for a new running mate to help him financially so he could qualify for the state’s public financing program as part of a team.

Boughton and Lauretti formalized their arrangement on May 23, leaving little time to collect signatures for Lauretti by the June 10 deadline. To expedite the process, they began offering petition circulators $2 per signature they collected, which is legal.

The signature collection process appears to have become somewhat frantic as the deadline neared, which is often the case and can lead to getting more invalid signatures.

Boughton decides to drops out

The Secretary of the State’s office took about two weeks to issue its decision on Lauretti's petition effort, having to wait for local election officials across Connecticut to verify the signatures of voters in their towns.

In the meantime, after it became apparent Lauretti’s signature collection drive likely had failed, Boughton announced he was dropping out of the race. Without a running mate, Boughton would not be able to raise the campaign money needed to qualify for public financing.

The Secretary of the State’s office made its announcement on Lauretti’s petition signatures on June 24, sending a formal letter to the candidate at his Shelton home.

Possible endorsements

Will Lauretti support any of the three candidates for lieutenant governor in the Republican primary?

It doesn’t appear so. “I’m going fishing,” he responded, when asked.

As for the Republican primary for governor between Tom Foley of Greenwich and John McKinney of Fairfield, Lauretti indicated he is talking to both candidates.

“We’re in discussions,” he said of the two contenders. “I haven’t made a decision yet.”

While he knows McKinney better because of McKinney’s longtime service in the state Senate and the proximity of Shelton to Fairfield, it’s uncertain if that will be factor in any decision. He indicated choosing who to endorse in a race can sometimes be similar to “a business judgment.”

Foley easily won the party endorsement at the convention, and lost to Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy by the slimmest of margins in 2010.

Run for mayor again?

Lauretti's gubernatorial campaign raised almost $150,000, he said, and he’s likely to donate any unspent campaign funds to charity.

Lauretti also said he isn’t through with public service yet. “I will probably run for mayor again,” he said.

Now in his 12th term as mayor, Lauretti won re-election in 2013 with 77% of the vote. He has gained a reputation as a municipal leader who has built up a city’s business sector while holding down taxes.