Trumbull’s Herbst floats trial balloon for statewide office

January 12, 2017 GMT

Tim Herbst, the take-no-prisoners Republican first selectman of Trumbull, isn’t keeping his ambitions for higher office bottled up any longer.

Without much fanfare, he filed exploratory papers with the state Elections Enforcement Commission earlier this week for a potential 2018 run for statewide office, including governor and treasurer.

Herbst, 36, lost a close race for treasurer to Democrat Denise Nappier in 2014 and has been eyeing a return to the statewide arena since. He joins Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and Fairfield Republicans Peter Lumaj and Tony Hwang — the former ran for secretary of state in 2014 and the later is a state senator — in kicking the tires on a run for higher office.

“I think Tim is one of several really talented and hard-working candidates that we have,” said J.R. Romano, the state GOP boss and a Trinity College friend of Herbst. “Being the party chairman, I have all these candidates that make me look good because of how well they run their cities and towns.”

Herbst said he was tied up in budget meetings Wednesday night and not available to comment. He is scheduled to appear on the Sunday political talk show “Face the State” on WFSB Channel 3 to discuss his future, he said.

Democrats, with whom Herbst has tangled locally and in Hartford, wasted little time maligning his latest trial balloon.

“We are absolutely shocked that, after years of trying to use his office as first selectman as a political steppingstone, Connecticut’s most ambitious junior Republican is once again gunning for higher office,” said Michael Mandell, the state Democratic Party’s executive director. “We can’t wait to find out which statewide office he is running for this time.”

Herbst and Mandell sparred on Twitter last month over dueling open records requests by Herbst and Democrats. It started when Herbst used the state’s Freedom of Information Act to compel four Democratic state senators to release their mileage reimbursement receipts, which he said they use to pad their pensions from the state. Democrats then requested a cost-breakdown for Herbst’s mileage deep dive, questioning whether he used town resources for political purposes.

The tiff added yet another chapter to long-running soap opera between Herbst and Democrats. In December, Herbst evicted the town’s Democratic treasurer and former state Sen. Anthony Musto from his town hall office, saying that Musto frequently works from his law office or home.

Herbst’s public squabble with Al Barbarotta, a contractor friend of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, has fueled the tensions. In 2015, Barbarotta won a $20,000 settlement from the town of a lawsuit in which the Trumbull resident claimed Herbst strong-armed a local day care center to renege on a $100,000 contract with Barbarotta’s company. Barbarotta is currently at the center of a federal grand jury investigation into contracting work by his company, which has helped Malloy with fundraising.

neil.vigdor@scni.com; 203-625-4436; http://twitter.com/gettinviggy