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Lamont is expected to name a new state comptroller this week

Conn. Gov. Ned Lamont
Jessica Hill
Associated Press
Conn. Gov. Ned Lamont

Before the end of the week, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont is expected to announce his choice to succeed state Comptroller Kevin Lembo. He has resigned for health reasons. Lamont has indicated his pick is likely to be someone who would not want to run for the office.

Lamont said his choice to serve Comptroller Lembo’s term, which ends in January 2023, will not be a sitting lawmaker. That’s because state law says it has to be the end of a term for a legislator to be able to step up.

“So I think we’ll probably think about a comptroller in an interim position,” Lamont said.

Ron Schurin, a political scientist at UConn, said Lamont needs to avoid a contentious appointment to keep Democrats together heading into next year’s election.

“I think there is something to be said for Democrats having a true contest. And if he were to appoint somebody who’s going to run for the term that would pretty much forestall that,” Schurin said.

But Schurin said the governor does need to appoint someone who would be independent.

“You want somebody of unquestioned competence and somebody who might have some creative ideas, but not too creative, because you don't want to go into a situation in which there's a battle over something that might seem to be not realistic," Schurin said.

Vincent Candelora, the House Republican Leader, and his caucus have raised questions about state contracts awarded to businesses that Lamont’s wife’s venture capital firm had invested in. Candelora said he will pay close attention to Lamont’s pick.

“You know, given that the comptroller oversees the very contracts that he's entering into, you want to make sure that there is somebody there, that will be sort of the independent watchdog,” Candelora said.

He said Lamont's pick not seeking election to the office would give Republicans an opportunity. They haven’t won a statewide constitutional seat in years.

"Any time there's an open seat, will certainly bring opportunities for the Republican to win that seat,” he said.

Veteran Democrat George Jepsen, who has held several offices including party chair and state attorney general, said it might not be easy for the GOP.

“Connecticut Democrats are fortunate to have a very deep bench. Connecticut Democrats can't take anything for granted. I think that we'll have credible candidates for all the positions, statewide positions and campaigning hard, but we won't take anything for granted,” Jepsen said.

If Lamont picks a place holder, he will be following a tradition set by former Democratic Governor William O’Neill. In the 1980s, O’Neill chose caretakers to fill vacancies that opened up for secretary of the state, treasurer and attorney general. Lamont likes that idea.

“I think Governor O'Neill was a pretty wise man,” Lamont said.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.