Connecticut's Wild Week
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
It's been a wild week in Connecticut politics.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, is fighting accusations that he lied about serving in Vietnam. The state's highest court found that Democratic Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz — who was hoping to take over Blumenthal's job — isn't eligible to run for it because she doesn't have enough experience as a lawyer. And with two days to go before the party's nominating conventions, the fireworks might not be over yet.
Blumenthal was the subject of a front-page expose Monday (May 17) in The New York Times , which reported that the attorney general falsely told an audience of veterans' advocates in 2008 that he had served in Vietnam. "We have learned something important since the days I served in Vietnam," Blumenthal told the crowd — even though he never served in the conflict and, as The Times reported, received at least five deferments that prevented him from going to war. The paper reported that Blumenthal has offered misleading statements about his military service on several occasions.
The story has generated a barrage of unwelcome media attention for Blumenthal and his Senate campaign, and on Tuesday (May 18), he called a nationally televised press conference to push back against accusations that he willfully misled voters. At the same time, he acknowledged "misspeaking" about his military service, and the question now is how much damage the episode will do to his Senate aspirations.
"Almost overnight," The Hartford Courant wrote , "the man who has long enjoyed overwhelming public approval ratings, little media scrutiny and only token opposition finds himself facing his biggest fight since he was first elected to the state legislature in 1983."
Bysiewicz hasn't had a much better week. The secretary of state — who had been seen as a contender to replace retiring Republican Governor M. Jodi Rell — instead set her sights on Blumenthal's attorney general position once Blumenthal announced he was running for Senate. But in a unanimous opinion Tuesday, the state Supreme Court ruled that Bysiewicz is ineligible to run for attorney general because she doesn't have the 10 years of "active practice" in law required under a state statute. Bysiewicz cannot appeal the ruling to the federal courts.
Attention now turns to the Democratic nominating convention in Hartford on Saturday. The Courant reported that the new front-runner for the party's attorney general nomination is former state Senate Majority Leader George Jepsen, while three contenders for Bysiewicz's job as secretary of state are anxiously waiting to see what she will do next. There is a chance, The Courant reported, that Bysiewicz will change her mind at the last moment and seek to run for re-election in her current role, or perhaps even for state comptroller.
In yet another twist, meanwhile, Bysiewicz's Republican brother-in-law — attorney Ross Garber — announced he will run for attorney general, now that Bysiewicz is officially out of the race, The Courant reported .