Four Republicans who have their eye on the 2014 race for governor are making their way to the starting gate. The next four months may narrow the field for the contenders who rely on taxpayer funds to finance of their campaigns.
State Sen. Toni Boucher of Wilton, Mayor Mark Boughton of Danbury and state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney of Fairfield are organizing to challenge the most familiar candidate, Greenwich businessman and former American ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley, the party's 2010 nominee. Foley's narrow defeat by Democrat and Working Families Gov. Dannel P. Malloy three years ago makes him the front-runner among Republicans for a rematch.
Foley has a lot of money and was willing to spend it in the 2010 race. The other three Republicans are in the early stages of raising money under the state's complicated public financing rules. McKinney has announced he is running for governor, so his goal is to collect $100 contributions as fast as he can to get him to the $250,000 jackpot that opens the door to millions more.
Boucher and Boughton are proceeding under the rules that apply to exploratory committees. That allows them to accept contributions up to $375 each, but they cannot declare that they absolutely are running for governor. It's an awkward fiction that they'll have to maintain as they test their strength among Republicans who donate to campaigns and others who will serve as delegates to the state's spring nominating convention.
The first reporting period ends on Sept. 30, not long after the three candidates have started to raise money. The test will come in the fall. From October through December, a serious candidate ought to be able to start putting some numbers on the board.
This is the harsh reality of raising money for Republicans under the state's generous taxpayer financed scheme. The pool of donors is not vast. There are hundreds of thousands more Democrats than Republicans in Connecticut and Dannel Malloy, an aggressive fundraiser who had run for governor four years before, did not qualify for the bonanza until well into the spring of 2010.
You're reading this column, so you probably have a heightened interest in politics and public affairs. Chances are you don't contribute money to political campaigns. Not many people do. The Sunlight Foundation, according to The Washington Post, found that "nearly 30 percent of the $6 billion [yes, billion with a 'b'] contributed to federal campaigns and committees in the 2012 election" came from only 31,385 people. That is, the report emphasized, one-tenth of 1 percent of the nation's population.
Engaged partisans are the most likely to contribute. That's not a big pool of Republicans in Connecticut. A contributor to one is unlikely to give to a rival. You cast your lot with a contribution. The competition among Boucher, Boughton and McKinney will be intense.
Boughton has been through this before. He ran for the Republican nomination for governor in 2010 and withdrew shortly before the convention because he could not raise the money. McKinney has many friends in Fairfield County. He'll need those friends to go several degrees of separation to find other donors. Boucher is new to this bigger stage. She'll soon know if she can compete in the race to collect the most in small contributions.
Not everyone will give the magic $100. Some will give $25 or $50 and the candidate had better be grateful for that. In a crowded field, each candidate needs thousands of contributors.
Raising the money requires the phone to become a candidate's constant companion. It is numbingly repetitious. During thousands of phone calls to strangers, a candidate is going to get dragged into some conversational mazes that even the polite hopeful will have trouble escaping, if they can get through. Caller ID and voice mail are implacable enemies of the candidate on the prowl for donations.
If a candidate reaches you, keep in mind that your relationship has just begun. You'll be asked if your spouse, children or parents would also like to contribute. Got some scores to settle? Give the names and phone numbers of your antagonists to a candidate raising money. They will know no peace.
Kevin Rennie is a lawyer and a former Republican state legislator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun