Former Webster Bank CEO eyes gubernatorial run

BY Greg Bordonaro

PHOTO | Steve Laschever
PHOTO | Steve Laschever
Former Webster Bank CEO James Smith.
Jim Smith, the former Webster Bank CEO who recently co-chaired a state-sanctioned commission that proposed vast changes to Connecticut's tax and economic policies, is eyeing a run for governor.

Smith in an email to HBJ said his recent work on the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth further stimulated his interest in a run for the state's top political office.

He could announce his gubernatorial run by next week, according to a media report. He would run as a Republican joining a crowded field of candidates.

He would also join other business executives vying for the governor's seat, including Oz Griebel, the former CEO of the MetroHartford Alliance, who is running as an independent.

In an email Smith said: "My work with the Commission reinforced for me the depth and breadth of challenges Connecticut faces, and we developed recommendations to achieve balanced budgets and sustainable growth. I believe to my core that I would bring to the Governor's office the experience, leadership skills and commitment needed to work with the legislature to bring about the changes needed to put our state government and economy back on solid footing, and ensure a prosperous future for everyone who calls our wonderful state home."

Smith said he recognizes that he would be a late entrant to the race but that he's been "rapidly completing a serious analysis of what it would take to win the nomination and the ensuing election -- from building a first-rate campaign team, to raising a considerable amount of funding, to meeting the criteria to secure the Republican nomination."

Smith said he has also been consulting with family and friends and will announce a decision soon.

The one advantage -- or potential disadvantage depending on how you look at it -- Smith will have as a candidate is that he will have a clear platform to run on, most likely defending the recommendations offered by the commission.

The 14-member commission issued a list of proposals in March that include a state tax overhaul, union bargaining changes, eliminating the estate and gift tax, a minimum wage hike, and paving the way for electronic road tolls.

Both unions and the business community have raised concerns about the proposals.