- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 11, 2017

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - While a growing number of 2018 gubernatorial hopefuls have moved toward potentially qualifying for millions of dollars in public financing for their candidacies, Connecticut party leaders said Tuesday that more Republicans and Democrats may still enter the already crowded field.

Candidates for governor must raise $250,000 in small contributions from mostly Connecticut residents to qualify for public grants of $1.25 million for the primary and $6 million for the general election. Those figures will be adjusted for inflation in January.

New fundraising reports due this week for the second quarter show eight candidates or potential candidates who’ve raised more than $100,000, while several have raised more than $200,000. The chairmen of both the state Republican and Democratic parties said Tuesday that such early fundraising success shows voter enthusiasm for their respective candidates.

“It’s a clear indication that there’s more and more people that want to take the state in a better direction that the Democrats have us going in,” said JR Romano, the GOP’s chairman.

Yet, Nick Balletto, chairman of the Connecticut Democrats, said Romano “is in for a rude awakening.” He said disapproval of Republican President Donald Trump coupled with the looming overhaul of the Affordable Care Act have fueled “a tremendous amount of energy” since the last election.

MORE CANDIDATES?

With the next gubernatorial election still about 17 months away, more than a dozen candidates have already expressed interested in seeking the state’s top job since Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced he will not seek a third term.

Both Romano and Balletto said Tuesday they expect more candidates to file paperwork for exploratory or candidate committees in the coming weeks and months. For example, many Democrats are waiting to see whether Democratic Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman will seek the party’s endorsement.

“There’s so much time for people to decide,” Balletto said.

Romano also predicted that voters haven’t seen last Republican or Democrat to enter the closely watched race. Both parties planned to hold their nominating conventions in May 2018.

REPUBLICAN HOPEFULS

So far, eight GOP candidates have collectively raised about $1.1 million, according to the latest finance filings. Republican Mayor Mark Lauretti, of Shelton, raised the most money - $145,090 - over the past quarter, which ran from April 4 to June 30.

Meanwhile, Republican Peter Lumaj, the party’s 2014 nominee for Secretary of the State, has raised the most money so far, $281,130. Lumaj is exploring a bid for statewide office and has raised a lot of his money from contributors who live outside of Connecticut. State law requires 90 percent of contributions to come from state residents in order to qualify for public financing.

Among other better-known GOP candidates and exploratory candidates, Glastonbury state Rep. Prasad Srinivasan has raised $205,311; Steve Obsitnik, $201,567; Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, $162,151; Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, $148,590; Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, $101,623; David Walker, $72,156; and Joe Visconti, $2,150.

DEMOCRATIC HOPEFULS

Five major Democratic contenders have so far raised more than $564,000 in total. Comptroller Kevin Lembo amassed $143,701 from April to June, the most of any Democrat in the second quarter. But Middletown Mayor Dan Drew currently has raised the most money in total, $177,133, for his exploratory committee.

Among other better-known Democratic candidates and exploratory candidates, former federal prosecutor Chris Mattei has raised $118,343; former Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris, $88,957; and Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, $36,165.

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