Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s decision to nominate Republican former state Sen. Andrew Roraback as a judge on the state Superior Court could have broad political repercussions.
State Republican party Chairman Jerry Labriola said he had “mixed feelings” about Roraback’s nomination to the bench. Roraback was the party’s 2012 nominee for the 5th Congressional District; he narrowly lost to Democrat Elizabeth Esty.
“There’s no doubt that Andrew would have provided Connecticut with a very forceful voice in the Republican majority in Washington,” Labriola said during a phone interview from Charlotte, where he is attending the Republican National Committee winter meeting. “He would have been a tier one candidate in 2014.”
Labriola added that he considers Roraback a close friend and “on a personal level…I’m happy for him…I am confident he will serve with distinction.”
A political moderate who favors abortion rights, Roraback’s ascension to the bench could be seen as another blow to the New England Republican brand, which has fallen on hard times of late as the GOP has struggled to win in Connecticut and throughout the region.
Labriola said, the party will field a competitive candidate against Esty in the 5th despite the departure of Roraback.
“We’re blessed that we have a strong bench of potential contenders for the 5th congressional seat,” Labriola said. He ticked off the names of state Sens. Kevin Witkos of Canton, Clark Chapin of New Milford, Rob Kane of Watertown and Michael McLachlan of Danbury; Mayors Mark Boughton of Danbury and Ryan Bingham of Torrington and the Republican candidates who sought the seat in 2012: Lisa Wilson-Foley, Mark Greenberg and Justin Bernier.
Labriola said avoiding a contentious primary will be key for the Republicans. “We need a candidate who can build on the 31 towns that Andrew Roraback won. It would be in our best interest if we arrive at party unity at the earliest possible opportunity,” he said.
Malloy has often been on the opposite side of Roraback, particularly when it came to spending matters. But on Thursday, the governor set all that aside.
“He’s served in the legislature with distinction,” Malloy said. “I think he’ll be the 12th Roraback on the bench in Connecticut history and I’ve appreciated his work ethic. Haven’t always agreed…but I respect him.”
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney also praised Malloy’s choice. “As a leader in the General Assembly, my friend and colleague Andrew Roraback earned a reputation for independence, hard work and consistency. In fact, he never missed a roll call vote in his 17 years of legislative service,” McKinney said in a statement. “He is one of the most logical and deliberative thinkers I have ever worked with and one of the most attentive listeners I have ever known. He will make an excellent judge.”