by Jennifer Swift
Aug 14, 2013
11:35 AMConnecticut Politics
Danbury Mayor Boughton: Democrats ‘Scared’ as He Weighs Bid for Governor
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Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, the Republican man of the people and master of the Twittersphere who’s a rising star in the Connecticut GOP, slipped a zinger into his announcement Wednesday morning that he’s formally exploring a run for governor in 2014—Democrats, he said, are “scared” by his potential candidacy.
What he bases that claim on is easy to decipher. Though he’s a conservative Republican—who has taken knocks for opposition to abortion rights, for example—Boughton has the potential to hit Democrats where it might hurt most among mainstream voters across the state: the perception of which candidate is most like them, most on their side.
In a statement Tuesday night attacking Boughton preemptively, Connecticut Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo called the Danbury leader “wrong for the middle class, wrong for Connecticut.”
After Boughton’s morning announcement, a source in Gov. Dannel Malloy’s office indicated that no direct response was planned and referred calls to the state Democratic party, where Communications Director Elizabeth Larkin indicated a statement was in the works. It had not been sent as of early afternoon Wednesday.
Meanwhile, DiNardo’s “wrong for the middle class” jab Tuesday night is clearly one that Boughton lives to parry; that was obvious in the press conference at Danbury High School Wednesday morning, when Boughton announced the formation of Explore Team Boughton and said a formal decision on running would be made around the first of the year, after he had done his “homework,” and after a November election almost certain to see him elected to a seventh term as the city’s mayor.
“I didn’t come from wealth,” he said in response to a question about his forming a committee now for the 2014 gubernatorial race. One factor, Boughton elaborated, was the necessity to start raising money. But pursuing the theme of his status as a Republican that Democratic voters could love, Boughton said broadly of the state’s current Democratic leadership, “They don’t understand how difficult it is to put gas in your car.”
So the pieces start to come together that might give pause to the Democratic machine and to the incumbent Democrat, Malloy—who has taken heat for giving state grants to hedge funds run by folks who presumably don’t sweat the price of gas.
“I came from this building. I came from this city,” stressed Boughton, who proudly went to state universities in Connecticut and taught social studies at Danbury high for 14 years before being elected mayor in 2001. (He also served two terms as state representative in the 138th District in the late 1980s.)
That’s arguably a middle-class-to-upper-middle-class status, which Boughton combines with a tough stance on taxes and spending, and with a true conservatism on social issues. All of that combined, he reasons, makes him the candidate the voters of Connecticut are most likely to connect with—that and the fact that he’s the guy who goes out of his way to talk directly to everyone, whether in person on via his @MayorMark handle on Twitter. He also has a Facebook page.
His personal, direct, folksy and devoted use of social media is such a defining quality that one of the media crews at the announcement Wednesday asked him to cooperate for a photo of him tweeting—Boughton, did, of course.
Tucked in among the Mayor Mark-isms and the heart of the announcement was the line about Democrats being scared. It was prompted by DiNardo’s statement Tuesday evening, when Boughton had been playing coy on Twitter after news of his press conference had been emailed to the media, which demanded to know if he was jumping into the gubernatorial contest.
“Tomorrow, peeps, tomorrow,” he tweeted to the impatient media, but the Connecticut Democrats were less patient. Before Boughton could tweet again this morning such popular song lyrics as “Tramps like us…baby we were born to run” and “Running on, running into the sun. But I’m running behind," DiNardo had already decided Boughton was in the race.