Unable to develop traction in a crowded GOP field -- both in terms of fundraising and name recognition -- state Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, has deflated her trial balloon for governor to concentrate on re-election.
Boucher, 64, announced Tuesday that she is dissolving her six-month-old exploratory committee for statewide office and will redirect some of the political contributions from the endeavor for her own race.
The move comes exactly one week after Boucher mustered the support of only 2 percent of would-be primary voters in a new Quinnipiac University poll, the worst showing among the six Republicans seeking Connecticut's top office.
At the head of the pack was Tom Foley, the party's 2010 nominee for governor, followed by Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield.
Eighty-seven percent of the poll's respondents said they didn't know enough about Boucher to form a favorable or unfavorable opinion about the veteran lawmaker.
"We were certainly out-matched when you look at the fact that we hadn't done anything statewide before," Boucher told Hearst Connecticut Media. "For me, I believe the right choice is this choice. It's also a realistic choice, as well."
Boucher downplayed the influence of the poll on her decision, however.
"It's unfortunate because people will make the wrong supposition," Boucher said.
Not ready to make an endorsement in the race until she sits down with fellow Republicans, Boucher drew praise from members of the GOP, including Boughton.
"Over the past several months, I've been very impressed by Sen. Boucher's hard work and passionate advocacy on big issues," Boughton said in a statement Tuesday. "She proved herself to be a tireless campaigner, an enthusiastic participant in the discussion about Connecticut's future, and a hard worker."
Elected to the state Senate in 2008 after serving in the state House for a dozen years, Boucher has devoted her legislative career to education reform. She publicly opposed Gov. Dannel P. Malloy concerning the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana.
Born in Italy and raised in Naugatuck, the 4-foot 11-inch Boucher returned to her childhood home last August to embark on the exploratory phase of a potential run for governor.
State GOP Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr., a Naugatuck native, thanked Boucher for being part of the conversation about the direction of the state.
"I spoke with Toni last night and congratulated her on her effort," Labriola told Hearst. "She's committed to helping us take the Connecticut state Senate and to bring unity to our party." Read Full Article
Boucher said she raised nearly $85,000 through her exploratory committee, but fell short of a $100,000 goal she set for becoming an official candidate.
"What happened was no one gave us a shot at raising money," she said. "(But) we raised more than anyone thought we could."
Contrary to early scuttlebutt among Republicans, Boucher said she is not interested in running for lieutenant governor and believes she is more valuable in the state Senate.
Representing all of Wilton, Westport, Redding, Ridgefield and parts of New Canaan, Weston and Bethel, Boucher received more votes than any sitting senator in the 2012 election. She said she will quickly make the transition to running for re-election, applying $15,000 in unused donations from her exploratory committee toward the state's threshold for public financing of her campaign. Boucher could be eligible for $94,690 in public funds. The law requires surplus funds from her exploratory committee to be returned to the state Elections Enforcement Commission, she said.
Boucher spoke of the need for Republicans to set aside their differences, saying that the party faces a "headwind" this fall.
"What I want to do is unite our party, she said.
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