Politics, they say in Connecticut, makes for strange fox hole fellows. So on the day after Hell reigned down on the hopes of the Democratic Party, a Republican plans to announce that it is official: He will be running for Attorney General. I am backing him all the way.
Ross Garber plans to make his bid official later today. (It's just past midnight as I write this.) I say, it's about time.
Garber is a Republican wunderkind who famously served as counsel to the office of the governor when John G. Rowland went up in flames. Garber handled a difficult job with distinction. His role, simply put, was to protect the institution of governor while the governor himself crashed and burned. While New Haven's Willie Dow tried and failed to keep the governor from going to federal prison, Ross was left the task of making sure the institution's interests remained in tact. He succeeded.
Until Tuesday, familial obligations kept Garber from tossing his hat in the ring. While Susan Bysiewicz played Hamlet -- "to be governor, or secretary of the state, that is the question" -- Ross sat by, deferring from declaring his interest because Susie B. is his sister in-law. But yesterday's ruling by the state Supreme Court declaring that she lacks the requisite statutory ten year's experience to serve as attorney general opens the field for Garber. He will file papers today, I am told by a reliable source.
I called for Byseiwicz to exit the stage six weeks ago on this site and in the pages of the Connecticut Law Tribune, where I write a weekly column. I've known Garber for almost twenty years. He clerked for a federal judge before whom I tried cases, and then went on to try cases himself as an associate at Shipman and Goodwin. We've gone toe to toe in court. He's an effective advocate, even if in our last meeting his client lost a million dollars or so in settlement of a multimillion dollar verdict. As trial lawyers say: Feces occur. I give him credit for trying cases. He walks the walk, and that is as high a praise as I will give a lawyer.
Garber could be just what the Republicans need to capitalize on the wreckage of the Democratic Party. After Bloody Tuesday, when the state Supreme Court declared Bysiewicz, a Democrat, unqualified to run for attorney general, and The New York Times, the nation's newspaper of record, called Blumenthal a liar for boasting about a nonexistent war record, the Democrats are vulnerable. This is the wrong year for a party to stump on a record of shady and questionable competence. Garber's actually been at the center of a storm and survived with his integrity in tact. We can no longer say that of Richard Blumenthal and his imaginary fox hole friends.
Garber should easily elbow from consideration the two Republcans who have declared their interest in the position, Martha Dean and John Pavia. Dean, who has run before, lacks gravitas, and Pavia, though a potent Fairfield county fundraiser, has no statewide support. Garber brings name recognition to a party in search of a star.
Can Garber go toe-to-toe with former state Senate Majority Leader George Jepsen, the Democrat's new front runner? Jepsen has support in the attorney general's office, where lawyers mutter about what to do in Blumenthal's wake. Jepsen is respected, and believed capable of providing leadership. He knows his way around Harford, too. He is a respected politician.
But this might just be the year for an anti-politician to take office. I am less interested in a glad-handing deal maker taking over as attorney general. Do we really want the ethic and mores of a legislator setting the tone in the AG's office? My sense is that voters might prefer a little transparency in the next AG: we thought we had that in Blumenthal, he certainly played at integrity.
So have at it, Ross. I wish you well. And as your campaign takes shape, do me a favor: Give that knucklehead Rob Simmons a call and tell him to shut up. Simmons is a dark horse Republican candidate for Dodd's Senate seat. He had great sport Tuesday calling both Blumenthal and Linda McMahon, the Republican front runner, liars. The trouble is, Simmons used to lie for a living. He's been given a stint in Congress by Connecticut voters. But we want more than a Tin Man in Washington. Simmons belongs on the sidelines.
Ethics in government is this year's top campaign issue. Simmons spent too many years working for the CIA as an operations officer, a.k.a., spy, to inspire confidence. Sure, he should be gleeful that the Blumenthal has stumbled and that the Linda McMahon is the queen of the World Wresting Federation. But we're not ready to put a secret agent in the Senate. We've had enough lies and deception for one year.