In Governor's Race, Petitions Are In And The Counting Begins

This article originally appeared in The Hartford Courant. 

Now the counting begins.

Four gubernatorial candidates have submitted petitions in their drive to earn a spot on the Aug. 14 primary ballot, while a fifth — Republican Mark Lauretti — is giving up his quest.

Lauretti, the mayor of Shelton, concluded Tuesday, the day signatures were due, that his effort would fall short, just as it did in the 2014 gubernatorial cycle.

Wrangling onto the ballot by collecting signatures is a cumbersome and often costly undertaking. Each candidate must collect signatures from 2 percent of registered party members statewide by June 12 — 9,081 Republicans or 15,458 Democrats.

Those who sign the petition and those who circulate them must be registered with the party and residents of the state. Because of those rules, most candidates collect far more signatures than needed to give them a cushion, in case some signatures are deemed ineligible during the certification process.

Lauretti’s campaign issued a statement late Tuesday acknowledging that he would not make the ballot.

"After a lengthy review of nearly all of the collected petition signatures, the Lauretti campaign has come to the conclusion that it will fall short of the 9,081 valid signatures needed to be included on the August primary ballot,’’ the campaign said. “With more than 80,000 signatures expected to be submitted for verification by other candidates, the Lauretti campaign has decided it is best to not burden local registrars and the secretary of the state with additional work that will not result in Mayor Lauretti getting on the August ballot.”

In an interview, Lauretti said he would not rule out a run as an independent in November, a strategy that requires him to collect signatures from 7,500 registered voters by Aug. 8. He blasted the Republican convention process, calling it a waste of time.

“I think it would have been smarter to bypass the process, let all the political people whine and moan and get in the street,” Lauretti said, adding that he still has about $70,000 left in his campaign coffers.

Lauretti said he would be more viable as an independent than two of the Republicans who qualified for the primary at the party’s convention last month, former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst and Westport tech entrepreneur Steve Obsitnik.

Democrat Joe Ganim said his team collected more than 32,000 signatures — more than twice the number required.

“Throughout this process I have met many amazing and hard-working people who are tired of seeing good-paying jobs leaving Connecticut, are tired of failing schools in urban centers, are tired of waiting in traffic jams and are tired of fiscal mismanagement in state government,’’ said Ganim, who is mayor of Bridgeport.

Another Democrat, retired business executive Guy Smith of Greenwich, also submitted petitions to town clerks’ offices around the state. His campaign said it collected more than 26,000 signatures.

Under the law, each signature must be certified by a local registrar, who then forwards the information on to the secretary of the state’s office for final review.

Both Smith and Ganim are seeking to square off against Ned Lamont, the Democrats’ endorsed candidate for governor.

On the Republican side, former hedge fund manager David Stemerman and former UBS executive Bob Stefanowksi are seeking to petition their way onto the ballot. Both men expressed confidence that they would more than meet the threshold.

Three of their fellow Republicans— Mark Boughton, the party’s endorsed candidate; Tim Herbst and Steve Obsitnik — automatically qualified at the party’s convention.

Stemerman and Stefanowski both bypassed the convention, opting instead to go the signature route.

This article originally appeared in The Hartford Courant.