In a surprise, Republican state Sen. Toni Boucher announced Tuesday that she is exploring a run for governor – a formidable task against better-known opponents.
A state legislator for the past 17 years, Boucher, 63, is joining an already crowded field that includes Senate Republican leader John McKinney of Fairfield and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton. Political insiders fully expect Greenwich multimillionaire Tom Foley to run in a rematch against Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, but neither Foley nor Malloy has made any official announcements.
All of those candidates are better known than Boucher. McKinney has served more than 15 years in the state Senate and comes from a prominent political family that rose to power in Fairfield County through the work of his late father, Stewart, who served for 17 years in the U.S. Congress. Boughton ran statewide on Foley’s ticket in 2010, and Foley came within one half of 1 percent of Malloy in Connecticut’s closest gubernatorial election in more than 50 years.
Republicans clearly think that Malloy is politically vulnerable, and National Public Radio said this week that Malloy ranks among the most vulnerable in the 36 states that will be voting for governor in 2014. All four Republicans are from Fairfield County, which is the party’s stronghold in Connecticut.
“I grew up in Connecticut at a time when it was one of the country’s most prosperous states,” Boucher said. “Now, thanks to the irresponsible policies of one-party rule, its economy ranks dead last. We have one of the heaviest tax burdens in the country, one of the worst environments for business, the nation’s highest per capita debt, dangerously unfunded pension liabilities, and the dubious distinction of being the worst state for retirement.
Boucher added, “I love Connecticut, and I can’t stand by while the policies of the Malloy administration and the Democratically-controlled legislature drag it to the bottom of almost every economic ranking. That’s why I am exploring the opportunity to run for governor.”
Standing 4 feet 11 inches tall, Boucher is known for her impassioned speeches against marijuana at the state Capitol. She has delivered several marathon speeches in the House and the Senate through the years in attempts to stop proposals to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize possession of small amounts of the drug.
On the House floor in 2007, Boucher spent more than three hours asking questions and speaking about the deleterious effects of marijuana. She prepared more than 50 amendments, but she stopped after the first seven amendments on medical marijuana had been defeated by the Democratic majority.
Talking to a small group of political reporters outside the Capitol, Boucher said that she had been able to live the American Dream.
“That dream does not seem to be possible out there,” Boucher said Tuesday. “Too many people are saying they can’t afford to stay here.”
Born at home in Italy without a midwife, Boucher moved to the United States at the age of five and worked her way up the political ladder at the local level during 10 years on the Wilton school board and board of selectmen. She once said that her father had a sixth-grade education. Boucher holds a bachelor’s degree from American University and an M.B.A. from the University of Connecticut.
A legislator since January 1997 when she joined the House of Representatives, Boucher currently serves as the ranking member of the higher education, transportation, and education committees.
Boucher and her team were careful to emphasize that they had created an exploratory committee, rather than a full candidate committee. Business cards that were printed said it is “an exploratory committee for statewide office. Nothing in this document should be construed as declaring a candidacy for any office.”
If the exploratory committee does not lead to raising substantial money, Boucher did not rule out running again for the state Senate.
Married for more than 40 years, Boucher has three children and five grandchildren.
(PHOTO: Boucher makes her point directly to House Republican leader Larry Cafero of Norwalk at the state Capitol).