It was an important meeting for John Rowland.
The Republican governor was running for reelection in 2002, and he was riding high as he was near the height of his popularity. He was the chairman of the Republican Governors Association and a close friend of then-President George W. Bush and Florida Governor Jeb Bush. The scandals that would lead to his downfall and federal prison sentence had not yet come to full light.
Rowland had arrived to see The Hartford Courant’s editorial board, and the members were asking him why he was running for a third term. They wanted to know what was on his plate on the important issues of the day: tax cuts, balancing the state budget, providing more money for education.
So, a board member asked Rowland directly, what unfinished issue did he need to tackle and why was he running for a third term?
“Coltsville,” Rowland deadpanned.
The board members knew it was a joke, based on Rowland’s brand of humor and particularly because the board had chided him for not stepping forward enough on the proposed establishment of the Coltsville National Historical Park in Hartford.
The issue came up again this week as a prominent gun lobby withdrew its support for a federal bill that would create the park. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gun manufacturers that include Colt’s Manufacturing Co., sent letters to members of the all-Democratic Connecticut congressional delegation and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to say that it was hypocritical to support the national park and stricter gun-control laws at the same time.
The debate over whether Coltsville should be declared a national park dates back more than 20 years. Many of those who fought for the designation, including U.S. Senators Christopher J. Dodd and Joseph I. Lieberman, have now since left office. Some insiders believe that the Coltsville proposal – once again – will not come up this year in the Republican-controlled U.S. House.