Mayor Mark Lauretti of Shelton enters race for governor

Mayor Mark Lauretti, a 12-term Republican who now is running for governor, speaks at the recent inauguration ceremony for city officials in Shelton.
Mayor Mark Lauretti, a 12-term Republican who now is running for governor, speaks at the recent inauguration ceremony for city officials in Shelton.

Mayor Mark Lauretti has made it official: He’s running for governor in 2014.

Fresh from a landslide re-election victory to a 12th term in November, Lauretti has filed the required paperwork to begin raising money for the state’s top office.

To qualify for the state’s public financing system, Lauretti will need to raise $250,000 in contributions of $100 from 2,500 people. He is confident he can meet that goal, based on the job he has done leading Shelton since 1991.

“Look at the two decades of personal property tax savings in this city,” he said. “Am I not worth $100?”

Thinks business community will back him

Lauretti expects one base of financial support for his campaign will be the local business community. “A lot of businesses have done well on my watch,” he said. “Wouldn’t they like to see what has happened in Shelton happen statewide?”

Like many Republicans, Lauretti had opposed establishing a system to help publicly finance campaigns when it began in 2008. However, he said it wouldn’t make sense not to participate in the system as a statewide candidate.

“I wasn’t in favor it, but why wouldn’t I use it?” he asked.

The treasurer for the Lauretti Governor 2014 Committee is Sheila O’Malley of Waterbury, who Lauretti noted has worked for some Democratic politicians in the past.

Other candidates in the race

The Democratic incumbent, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, is expected to seek a second term in 2014. Malloy was mayor of Stamford before winning the governor’s race in 2010.

In addition to Lauretti, at least four other major candidates are running, or expected to run, for the Republican nomination for governor.

They are 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee Tom Foley of Greenwich; Mayor Mark Boughton of Danbury; state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney of Fairfield; and state Sen. Toni Boucher of Wilton.

Foley, who once served as U.S. ambassador to Ireland, lost an extremely close race to Malloy four years ago. Boughton was the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in 2010, running with Foley on the ticket in the general election.

Lauretti said he is a stronger candidate than the other Republicans. “Look at the track record,” he said. “I’ve lived it, I’ve worked it, I’ve mastered it. What can the others say?”

“I don’t know what qualifies them and not me?” he asked.

Stresses his managerial experience

Lauretti said government managerial experience is “paramount” to becoming governor, and most of the Republican candidates don’t have such experience in their political backgrounds.

“They’re all good people,” Lauretti said. “I like them all. But if you want to put us all side by side — well, at least Boughton has it.”

Boughton has been mayor of Danbury since 2001, and also served in the state House of Representatives.

Lauretti doesn’t expect his campaign to focus on his Republican opponents. “I’ve never worried about anyone else,” he said. “I worry about me.”

But he doesn’t think having spent many years in the state Legislature in Hartford is much of a plus. He questioned what has been accomplished by long-serving legislators.

Calls Shelton ‘an economic oasis’

Lauretti expects to talk up the success of Shelton — a medium-sized city known for its low taxes and large corporate presence — on the campaign trail.

“I’ve been able to make Shelton work in Connecticut, the highest taxed and most regulated state in the country,” he said.

“We’re an economic oasis in Connecticut,” he said. “And we’ve done it with a diverse population, not a wealthy population.”

Downplays scandals

Lauretti downplayed any political damage done by scandals involving Shelton in recent years, such as one that led to convictions for two prominent developers and a city building official and another one that involved the theft of up to $914,000 in city funds by former city Assistant Finance Director Sharon Scanlon.

Federal law enforcement officials oversaw the development scandal investigation and pursued Lauretti as a target, but he was never charged with any crime and denies having done anything illegal.

“What scandal?” Lauretti said when asked about the issue. “That’s standard for public officials. It means that I’ve been vetted. And don’t forget the sitting governor went through the same thing.”

Part of the Shelton investigation focused on home improvements made to Lauretti’s home. Questions also have been raised in the past about the cost of work done on Malloy’s home in Stamford.

Lauretti said when you hold public office, some people don’t like you and they often will make accusations to cause political problems.

In 2013, Lauretti won re-election with 77% of the vote, sweeping all Republicans to victory on the municipal ballot in Shelton.