Run, Ross, Run

The field for Attorney General of the State of Connecticut is wide open, and one of the best candidates is rumored to be playing Hamlet in Hartford. Is his race to be, or not to be? There really is no question about it: Ross Garber should run for Attorney General.

I've known Ross for almost 20 years. We met when he was a clerk to United States Judge Robert Chatigny. I'd come to court and plead my heart out for one cause or another. Ross was one of the backroom guys, quietly taking it all in and then, I presume, meeting with the judge in chambers to discuss what all the fuss meant.

I confess to intimidation by federal law clerks. Although I graduated with honors from law school, there was nothing honorable about my participation in class or, frankly, my performance in general. I was indifferent, and I burned bridges, a lifelong pastime. Ross was busy building bridges.

We met up a few years after his clerkship in a federal trial; Ross was now in the trenches, trading punches. I was acting up in that case, too. I was more than a little out there. Ross was unflappable, however. A lawyer's sort of lawyer: He'd let me toss a Molotov cocktail. He stood by to let it burn out. When the flames were doused, he'd then come up with a twinkle in his eye and ask, politely, "Can we talk about that now?" His goodwill is infectious.

He emerged as lawyer for the Office of the Governor in the waning days of former Gov. John Rowland. We talked alot in those years about the challenges of representing the institution of the governor's office at the same time the governor was, well, er ... on the ropes. What impressed me most there was his understanding of the competing roles of all involved. His grasp of the importance of integrity in government was firm, true and intuitive. I came to trust him implicitly.

He's now parked at the Hartford law-firm of Shipman and Goodwin, another move I envy. I often wish I had the go-along, get-along gene. I'm a good lawyer in the courtroom, but I am not a good businessman. Oh, to have a stable of partners on whom to rely. Instead I howl at the moon and wonder why governor's don't call me for advice. Instead, they call Ross.

It turns out that there is a campaign to draft Ross in the race for Attorney General. But Ross is rumored to be hesitant. Why? He's young. At 43 his political life is still ahead of him. He has broad statewide support among Republicans. He has great name recognition. Why wouldn't he run?

His sister-in-law is in the race.

Garber is related by marriage to current Secretary of the State, Susan Bysiewicz. Bysiewicz is a Democrat; Garber is a Republican.

So what? I say. Both are well qualified for the job in my view. Surely, Bysiewicz can share the familial limelight. She has, after all, been playing the role of Hamlet herself for the past few months: "Shall I run for governor? Or shall I run for Attorney General?" It is unreasonable for her to expect all other family members to put their ambitions on hold while she sorts out her intentions.

I can well imagine Garber's reservations about running: "Will my wife every speak to me again?" Of course, she will. And so will Bysiewicz. Politics needn't be bloodsport. It might do the state good to have a civil Attorney General's race. That might help focus on the issues for a change.

Connecticut voters will have a difficult task filling the shoes of departing Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. Say what you will about the man, he is intelligent, driven and has assembled a brilliant legal team. Ross Garber has what it takes to lead that office; so does Susan Bysiewicz. Let the voters pick the best candidate.

Run, Ross, run. And have your wife give me a call if she needs to be calmed down.


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