Contenders scramble in open state attorney general race
Three current and former lawmakers are pouncing on the opportunity to contend for state attorney general and succeed departing Democrat George Jepsen.
No sooner did the seven-year incumbent reveal he would not seek re-election in 2018 than those with statewide political ambitions and lawyer credentials started laying campaign groundwork.
House Democrats William Tong, of Stamford, and Mike D’Agostino, of Hamden, are part of the mix, as well as former House Republican John Shaban, of Redding.
Tong, a former constitutional law student of Barack Obama at the University of Chicago and co-chairman of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, formed an exploratory committee Tuesday to focus on the attorney general’s race.
It’s the latest overture for higher office by Tong, who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2012 and Stamford mayor in 2013. He previously was a finalist for U.S. attorney of Connecticut in 2010, but Obama appointed David Fein.
“I’ve been knocked around a few times and it hasn’t been easy,” Tong said. “No doubt about it. I’ve gotten up every single time.”
As the son of Chinese immigrants, Tong said he can relate to the struggles of working families, and said he would follow Jepsen’s lead in fighting generic drug manufacturers and mortgage lenders that prey on the middle class. He said he would continue take on Donald Trump’s administration as Jepsen has over immigration and environmental policies.
“I don’t know if I would characterize it as the Trump resistance as much as the attorney general is doing what’s right and standing up to administration that is trying to dismantle our lives,” said Tong, who has been practicing law for 17 years and is with the firm Finn Dixon & Herling.
Shaban, who gave up a safe seat in the Legislature to unsuccessfully challenge Democrat Jim Himes last year for Congress in the 4th District, registered Tuesday as a candidate for attorney general.
“I had started to explore this a couple of months ago,” Shaban said. “I had expected to actually be facing George. All these races are wide open.”
Shaban has been practicing law for almost 26 years and is a partner with Whitman Breed Abbott & Morgan in Greenwich. He said he misses public service.
“One of the reasons I went to law school was to be involved in public policy,” Shaban said.
During his congressional campaign, Shaban rankled some in the GOP when he referred to Trump as a “loudmouth jerk” at a rally for the eventual presidential victor. Asked whether distancing himself from Trump could help in a mid-term election year, which is historically unkind to the president’s party, Shaban he is hoping to avoid the fray.
“I lived through that storm running for Congress,” he said.
D’Agostino, a three-term incumbent who is vice chairman of the Legislature’s General Law Committee, has been making calls to Democrats to gauge their support. He’s been practicing law for 21 years and is a partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in Hartford.
“I am certainly thinking about it,” D’Agostino said. “Anybody who’s thinking about it right now certainly has massive shoes to fill. Anybody with a law degree, I’m sure, is going to throw their hat in the ring.”
Contrary to an internet report, former Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris denied he is eyeing Jepsen’s office and said his focus is on a potential run for governor.
“As I’ve crisscrossed the state, I’ve found a lot of enthusiasm among Democrats and others for me to continue to explore and to move forward,” Harris said.
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