Longtime investment executive Bob Eick has dropped out of the Republican primary for state treasurer.
Eick qualified for the primary against Trumbull first selectman Timothy Herbst by receiving nearly 30 percent of the vote last month during the state Republican convention at the Mohegan Sun casino. He needed support from only 15 percent of the delegates at the convention and received nearly double that total.
But he has now dropped out, saying, “Primaries tend to diminish the Republican opportunity to win on the underticket.”
A Ridgefield resident, Eick said that a divisive primary could “tend to reduce our chances to win in November” against four-term incumbent Democrat Denise Nappier.
Eick’s candidacy was pushed most prominently by former Republican state chairman Chris DePino, who introduced Eick to numerous legislators at the state Capitol on opening day in February and to party leaders in recent months.
Eick did not mention Herbst – who was endorsed by the convention delegates – in his statement. The two rivals had clashed before the convention as each one questioned the other’s experience. Herbst said that a candidate did not need 25 years of experience on Wall Street to run for treasurer, while Eick’s supporters noted that Herbst has no experience in working for major Wall Street firms.
“I hope that our next state treasurer recognizes the mismanagement from that office which has cost our pensioners and all state taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, and they begin to allow experienced financial professionals to start to improve our performance,” Eick said. “Further, I encourage the legislature to scrutinize the nearly complete level of autonomy that our current treasurer possesses. Our state’s ranking on the bottom rung of financial performance clearly shows that what we have now with our state treasurer isn’t working. It needs to be fixed.”
Herbst, 33, and Eick, 51, had been battling for the Republican nomination to run against Nappier, who has won four consecutive election victories dating back to 1998. Nappier stands as the longest-serving of the state’s constitutional officers.
Neither Herbst nor Eick has an immediately recognizable political name because neither of them has held statewide office. Herbst serves as the three-term first selectman in Trumbull, a Fairfield County suburb with a population of about 36,000, while Eick is a longtime investment executive and movie investor who has never held public office.
The Republicans have not won the treasurer’s race since 1994, when Christopher B. Burnham emerged victorious. It was a big year for Republicans nationally and in Connecticut when they won the governor’s office and captured the majority in the state Senate. But Nappier won in 1998 and every four years since then.
With one of the best years on Wall Street in 2013, the state pension fund grew by nearly $3 billion in a single year to $28.2 billion at the end of last year. The fund, which provides pensions for legislators, judges, teachers, and state employees, was about $17.5 billion when Nappier was running for the job in late 1998.
Eick tried to shake up the race with an unusual commercial that began with him sitting in the darkness — lit only by a flashlight. A voice screamed in the background.
“Did I scare you?” Eick asked as the lights started to come on. “Don’t be afraid. I’m not a career politician. You want to see scary? Look at how poorly Connecticut’s pension funds have performed.”
Herbst and Eick complained that the state treasurer has too much power to make moves with the pension money. In Connecticut, former treasurer Paul J. Silvester, a Republican, pleaded guilty in 1999 to criminal charges of racketeering and money laundering in a wide-ranging kickback scandal that involved Silvester making financial transfers in his final two months in office with his sole authority.
Legislative Republicans later proposed installing a seven-member board that would have the power to override the elected treasurer, but that proposal was rejected by the Democratic-controlled legislature.