From Inevitable to Questionable: Connecticut's Newest Congressional Conflagration

Part musical chairs, part jockeying for positions as the Connecticut local and state conventions took place earlier in May, party loyalists on both sides voted their support for senate, congressional and local candidates in the upcoming election. Now there is intrigue and a FBI investigation into one of Connecticut's congressional campaigns amid questions of influence buying. While the investigation is ongoing, it is keeping the blogosphere humming with the latest.

The state has a perception problem, Corrupticut, a cute nickname after the resignation and subsequent corruption guilty plea of former Governor John Rowland in 2004. Late last week opened with widespread news reports of the arrest and ongoing FBI investigation of CT Speaker of the House Chris Donovan's congressional finance director and then the immediate firing of his former campaign manager. The Speaker wisely stepped down from presiding over the House of Representatives Special Session between now and June 12; again, perception is everything.

Democrats in the Connecticut 5th Congressional District convention, voted to endorse the inevitable Chris Donovan, the CT House Speaker and paid his dues going up the ladder to replace Democrat Congressman Chris Murphy who in turn, is running for soon to be vacant seat of (CT-I) U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman. The 5th District was realigned with the 6th, and had previously been represented by Republican Nancy Johnson until 2007, so the political relationship is fragile at best in this more conservative area of a blue state.

But... not so fast. What had seemed like a long shot, 5th Congressional District Democrat Dan Roberti also won a slot on the August 14th Primary joining the U.S. Senate candidates of both parties in the race. Mr. Roberti continued to knock on doors, attend meetings, meet with voters and politicians in his primary effort against Speaker Donovan vowing that on August 15 he would be the nominee. With the increased attention focused on CT's 5th District, Roberti is getting a second longer look and some name recognition. He is seemingly changing from not a chance or don't know him to soon a possible front runner in a matter of days.

Sure the Senate race before the August 14th primary has pitted both GOP'ers: former WWE CEO Linda McMahon and former (CT-4) Congressman Chris Shays verses the two Democrats (CT-5) Congressman Chris Murphy and Susan Bysiewicz, former CT. Sec. of State. Each must try to differentiate themselves from their counterpart without alienating the voter or their party in the process. This is the second senatorial seat made available within the past two years thanks to the retirements of Chris Dodd (2010) and now Senator Joseph Lieberman (CT-I).

Governor Dannel P. Malloy released the following statement concerning reported allegations within Christopher Donovan's Congressional campaign. "I want to commend the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI for their diligence in the investigation and the speed in which they've taken action. Law enforcement is in many ways the first and last line of defense for our taxpayers, and when an announcement like this happens, we should all be grateful for their work. The governor continued, "Allegations like this not only damage a campaign or a candidate, they also undermine citizen's belief in their government's ability to carry out its responsibilities."

"I am deeply troubled by the allegations in the arrest warrant affidavit that conduit contributions to Speaker Donovan's congressional campaign were made with the intent to directly influence legislation. Stated CT Attorney General George Jepsen:

"I commend the United States Attorney's Office for its action, and urge it to aggressively continue its investigation. Unfortunately, these allegations cast doubt on the integrity of legislative actions at the core of Speaker Donovan's responsibilities... As the investigation unfolds, he will need to guide his actions by what is best for the people of Connecticut, even should that come at the expense of his congressional campaign or his tenure as House Speaker."

While the future of CT's Speaker of the House and Congressional candidate Donovan is undecided (remember, Donovan was not arrested), either he continues under a veil of scrutiny or steps down for the sake of the party and residents, Republican and Democratic voters will have to opportunity to vote for who they, not the party regulars support in the August 14th primary for not only the Senate seat, both GOP and Democrats, but also for those in the 5th Congressional District, in what had been thought to be an inevitable Donovan win, just became way more interesting and this is more than campaign optics.