by Jennifer Swift
Aug 14, 2013
11:35 AMConnecticut Politics
Danbury Mayor Boughton: Democrats ‘Scared’ as He Weighs Bid for Governor
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, the Republican man of the people and master of the Twittersphere who’s a rising star in the Connecticut GOP, slipped a zinger into his announcement Wednesday morning that he’s formally exploring a run for governor in 2014—Democrats, he said, are “scared” by his potential candidacy.
What he bases that claim on is easy to decipher. Though he’s a conservative Republican—who has taken knocks for opposition to abortion rights, for example—Boughton has the potential to hit Democrats where it might hurt most among mainstream voters across the state: the perception of which candidate is most like them, most on their side.
In a statement Tuesday night attacking Boughton preemptively, Connecticut Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo called the Danbury leader “wrong for the middle class, wrong for Connecticut.”
After Boughton’s morning announcement, a source in Gov. Dannel Malloy’s office indicated that no direct response was planned and referred calls to the state Democratic party, where Communications Director Elizabeth Larkin indicated a statement was in the works. It had not been sent as of early afternoon Wednesday.
Meanwhile, DiNardo’s “wrong for the middle class” jab Tuesday night is clearly one that Boughton lives to parry; that was obvious in the press conference at Danbury High School Wednesday morning, when Boughton announced the formation of Explore Team Boughton and said a formal decision on running would be made around the first of the year, after he had done his “homework,” and after a November election almost certain to see him elected to a seventh term as the city’s mayor.
“I didn’t come from wealth,” he said in response to a question about his forming a committee now for the 2014 gubernatorial race. One factor, Boughton elaborated, was the necessity to start raising money. But pursuing the theme of his status as a Republican that Democratic voters could love, Boughton said broadly of the state’s current Democratic leadership, “They don’t understand how difficult it is to put gas in your car.”
So the pieces start to come together that might give pause to the Democratic machine and to the incumbent Democrat, Malloy—who has taken heat for giving state grants to hedge funds run by folks who presumably don’t sweat the price of gas.
“I came from this building. I came from this city,” stressed Boughton, who proudly went to state universities in Connecticut and taught social studies at Danbury high for 14 years before being elected mayor in 2001. (He also served two terms as state representative in the 138th District in the late 1980s.)
That’s arguably a middle-class-to-upper-middle-class status, which Boughton combines with a tough stance on taxes and spending, and with a true conservatism on social issues. All of that combined, he reasons, makes him the candidate the voters of Connecticut are most likely to connect with—that and the fact that he’s the guy who goes out of his way to talk directly to everyone, whether in person on via his @MayorMark handle on Twitter. He also has a Facebook page.
His personal, direct, folksy and devoted use of social media is such a defining quality that one of the media crews at the announcement Wednesday asked him to cooperate for a photo of him tweeting—Boughton, did, of course.
Tucked in among the Mayor Mark-isms and the heart of the announcement was the line about Democrats being scared. It was prompted by DiNardo’s statement Tuesday evening, when Boughton had been playing coy on Twitter after news of his press conference had been emailed to the media, which demanded to know if he was jumping into the gubernatorial contest.
“Tomorrow, peeps, tomorrow,” he tweeted to the impatient media, but the Connecticut Democrats were less patient. Before Boughton could tweet again this morning such popular song lyrics as “Tramps like us…baby we were born to run” and “Running on, running into the sun. But I’m running behind," DiNardo had already decided Boughton was in the race.
The headline on the statement read, “Mark Boughton: Out of Touch with Connecticut’s Middle Class,” and it began by saying, “Republican Mayor Mark Boughton says he’s to be Connecticut's next Governor, but a look at his record tells different story.” DiNardo went on: “Mr. Boughton is strikingly similar to his fellow Republican candidates, Sen. McKinney and Tom Foley, when it comes to opposing issues that matter to the vast majority of people in Connecticut. To name just two examples, Mr. Boughton is steadfastly against a modest increase in the state's minimum wage, an increase that will benefit Connecticut's hard-working families.”
GOP State Senate leader John P. McKinney has announced his intention to run for governor, and Foley, the businessman and former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland who lost to Malloy in the last election by roughly 6,000 votes, is expected to run again.
As for the minimum wage opposition, Boughton addressed it at the news conference Wednesday. When he voted against pushing it to $6.70 in April 2000, he said he was motivated not by an attempt to deprive Connecticut workers of a living wage but by concern for the possible effect on teens. Teaching high school social studies at the time, Boughton said he was worried that higher wages would tempt teens to work more hours. “I saw what part-time work was doing to our students,” he said. Whatever the debate was in 2000, Connecticut’s current minimum wage is $8.25.
DiNardo’s rebuke, “And somewhat surprisingly, he’s against a woman’s right to choose,” didn’t come up Wednesday, which was not surprising, as those parsing the potential candidacy say Boughton will take the stance that the laws on the issue are well-established and otherwise leave the topic alone.
“One last note, and an important one,” DiNardo said. “Before Mr. Boughton takes credit for what he claims are his Danbury accomplishments, he should acknowledge the significant increases Danbury received in education and other local funding over the past few years, thanks to Gov. Malloy and the Democrats who supported his budget. Governor Malloy increased education aid to Danbury by 40 percent over Governor Rell’s administration while also doubling Danbury’s road aid.” Boughton vowed in response to quantify his leadership on guiding Danbury to the promising position it holds today.
Back to the idea of Democrats being “scared,” what Boughton said was specifically in response to Democrats attacking him before he even announced the formation of exploratory committee that may or may not result in a run for governor.
“It says that they’re scared, right? That’s a good thing,” he said, before going on Wednesday to elaborate that a slow, careful, formal process will play out before any declaration that he’s formally in. One thing for certain, he won’t run again for lieutenant governor, as he did in 2000, joining the gubernatorial ticket of then-Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele. He lost the GOP primary to Foley, and Boughton became Foley’s running mate in the nearly successful campaign.
“Right now we have to do our homework,” Boughton said, stressing, “I’m only a candidate right now for one office.” That office is mayor of Danbury. The decision on a run for governor won’t come until after the November election, which casts the idea of Boughton running simultaneously for two offices in a different light.
Boughton said in a statement handed out to the media Wednesday that he will make his decision "based on my assessment of the Republican Party’s ability to field a conservative candidate best equipped to defeat Dan Malloy by relating to and appealing to a broad spectrum of Connecticut voters.”
However that plays out, the GOP’s high regard for Boughton was also made clear in the statement, in which Connecticut Republican party chairman Jerry Labriola, Jr. praised Boughton, saying, “A tireless campaigner who throughout his career has been a steadfast champion of the Republican Party and conservative values, Mark would be a candidate who can relate to middle class voters struggling under the many failures of the Malloy administration.”
“It continues to be my honor to serve the people of Danbury, which is why I chose to make this announcement in my hometown today,” Boughton said in the statement. “Here in Danbury, and across our state, we continue to feel the devastating effects of a Malloy administration that spends too much, taxes too much, and lacks accountability.”
The bottom line, Boughton said, is that in any office he holds, the guiding policies will be to put people over politics and to “serve all of the residents all of the time.”
For a taste of what that looks like in the digital age, see the Boughton stream @MayorMark on Twitter, his Facebook page, and his Danbury re-election Web site, www.mayormark.com. For more on his issues with the Malloy administration, see the posts on Mayor Mark's Blog.
Boughton was born Feb. 20, 1964, in Danbury. He graduated from Danbury High School and went to Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in history. He went on to Western Connecticut State University for a Master’s Degree in educational psychology.
In 1983, his bio says, he joined the infantry in the U.S. Army Reserve and served until 1989, achieving the rank of sergeant. He came back to Danbury high in 1987 as a social studies teacher.
His political career began with a post on Danbury’s Planning Commission, from 1995 to 1998, when he also ran a local cabinetry business. He was then elected as the state representative in the 138th district, serving two terms, before being elected Danbury’s mayor in 2001. Currently serving his sixth term, he is the longest serving Republican mayor in the city’s history.
His wife, Phyllis Boughton, owns and manages a small business in Danbury.
Danbury Mayor Boughton: Democrats ‘Scared’ as He Weighs Bid for Governor