Connecticut Democratic Party Chair Nancy DiNardo thinks Gov. Ned Lamont has done a great job on important issues in the state, and that he would be hard to beat if he ran for a third term in 2026. And even if Lamont decides against running, she said, the Democratic bench of gubernatorial candidates is as strong as it’s ever been.
DiNardo, who has been a member of party leadership since 2005 and its chair since June 2020, told CT Examiner on Tuesday that Lamont’s track record on taxes, gun control, abortion rights and crime is a recipe for another winning term.
She also highlighted the $51.1 billion biennial state budget, which received bipartisan support and includes an income tax cut.
“People don’t see him as a politician,” DiNardo said. “They see him as a businessman. He doesn’t see people as Democrats or Republicans, he sees people as people. He’s very personable and very friendly.”
Lamont has not said whether he will run for a third term. DiNardo said she suspects he will announce if he’s running within a year of the November 2026 election. It makes sense, she said, for the governor to be noncommittal at this point.
“If he was going to say he’s running again, then he would become a target [for the opposition],” she said. “And if he said he wasn’t running, I think people would perceive him as a lame duck. So, it’s best for him to wait.”
DiNardo, a longtime former educator in Bridgeport, noted Lamont’s continued popularity in the polls. She also said he won the last two elections for several reasons, particularly his support of abortion rights and gun control.
His two-time opponent, Republican Bob Stefanowski, wasn’t a good candidate, she said. DiNardo claims that Stefanowski, a businessman and consultant, took money from groups opposing abortion even though he said he supports abortion rights.
“It makes you wonder what he really believes,” she said. “ … He talks about eliminating taxes, I guess, because he thought it would be a popular issue. But taxes are what keeps the government running. He just doesn’t understand the issues.”
When reached for comment on Tuesday, Stefanowski said, “Connecticut Dems should spend more time trying to help Connecticut families struggling to pay for groceries and heating their homes during the holidays and less time attacking political opponents.”
DiNardo said Democrats would be highly favored to keep the governor’s chair with or without Lamont as the standard bearer. If Lamont does not run, there are many Democrats whose names have been bandied about in the press and in political circles, she said.
Several Democrats whose names have been bandied about include House Speaker Matt Ritter, former Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, Attorney General William Tong, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and State Comptroller Sean Scanlon.
DiNardo said all five are “qualified and experienced” and that any of them would be ready to lead..
Ritter, she said, “has done a good job in the Legislature. He stands out as a leader and has worked well with all of the legislators in the House, and the Senate as well. He also works hard and is smart.”
DiNardo praised Bronin for his “phenomenal job” in Hartford and said Tong was “very level-headed and has a good grasp of what direction the [attorney general’s] office should be going in.”
Regarding Bysiewicz, she said, “Susan has been around a long time and has a good grasp of the issues. She obviously has a lot of experience from when she was Secretary of the State. She is well-known and people admire her.”
And DiNardo said Scanlon is an up and coming political star in his own right.
“He’s newer as a constitutional officer, but he had the experience in the Legislature and has an understanding of the state of Connecticut,” she said.
Four of the five – Ritter, Bronin, Scanlon and Bysiewicz – responded to CT Examiner on a possible run for governor in 2026.
Bronin, told CT Examiner that he is pretty much in the race if Lamont opts out in three years.
“I’m looking forward to catching my breath after eight years as mayor, and it feels really early to talk about an election that’s three years away when Gov. Lamont hasn’t said what he plans to do,” Bronin said. “But, if people ask me if I’d think about running if the governor ultimately decides not to run, I answer honestly – yes, that’s something I would probably do. I love the day-to-day work of building a team and tackling tough problems, and doing work that you can see and feel in communities, and that’s the work that mayors and governors do.” ,
Asked for comment on a possible run for governor in 2026, Ritter said he hasn’t closed any doors.
“I’m running for reelection in 2024,” he said. “We will just have to see where my head is. I haven’t foreclosed any opportunities for 2026.”
Meanwhile, Scanlon and Bysiewicz sidestepped discussing a potential run, saying they enjoy their current jobs.
“2026 is a long way away, and I hope the governor takes his time and considers running again,” Scanlon said. “Until then, I’m focused on my job and working with him to continue our fiscal turnaround.”
Bysiewicz said, “The governor and I are just finishing the first year of our second term, and we are solely focused on the work we have to accomplish for the people of Connecticut — balancing the budget for a sixth time, paying down our debt, and improving the lives of residents.”
DiNardo also said that the drama surrounding former Republican President Donald Trump can only help Connecticut Democrats, especially if he gets his party’s nomination in 2024.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say that Connecticut Republicans are connected to Trump, but voters looking at that and seeing what he says and does could make a difference [in favor of Democrats],” DiNardo said.
This story has been updated to include comments from Luke Bronin