I won’t accuse retiring Republican Governor M. Jodi Rell of hiding from the media.
She holds her share of press conferences and her office lets reporters know about upcoming public appearances, such as tomorrow’s 12:30 p.m. event in East Lyme to christen a new Department of Environmental Protection boat. She’s willing to take unrelated questions from reporters at these events. She might not always provide the best or most satisfying answers, but she won’t immediately duck behind a wall of spokesmen and state police when approached by someone with a pad and pen or microphone, either.
But scheduled appearances aside Rell otherwise relies heavily on spokespeople. Some of my colleagues have expressed frustration over Rell’s unwillingness to be interviewed.
Critics call him a media whore, but before his campaign for U.S. Senate Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal insisted on calling reporters directly to answer their questions. Again, he might not have always provided the best or most satisfying answers, but you at least had the opportunity to pick his brain beyond a press statement or try to catch him off guard. And that’s better than no opportunity.
Now the crop of five gubernatorial candidates who want to take her place are pledging to make themselves plenty available not just to pesky reporters but to the general public.
Republican Oz Griebel, a Simsbury businessman who is mounting a primary against GOP gubernatorial nominee Tom Foley, a Greenwich businessman/millionaire, today issued his “5 Point Clean & Open Government Plan.” Priority #1? Griebel said as governor he will “hold weekly press and constituent availability … to ensure maximum transparency. Such regular interaction with the media, our elected leaders and constituents will ensure maximum engagement on budget and public policy as well as serve to diminish the likelihood of being corrupted by the perquisites of elected office.”
Griebel’s staff did not get back to me to clarify the form “constituent availability” will take, so I’m not sure if he’s going to set aside a day when residents can line-up outside of the governor’s office and, one by one, enter to ask him for a heart or brains or courage or what have you…
I reached out to the other four candidates to find out how accessible they intend to be.
1. Foley spokesman Liz Osborn said “during campaign appearances and so forth he has pledged to be open, transparent and responsive to the public. The governor meets with constituents and deals with the news media almost every day.”
(That has not been the the case. But I’ll take Osborn’s response to mean Foley expects to talk to the press almost daily.)
2. Chris Cooper, spokesman for Lt. Governor Michael Fedele, a Republican who is also mounting a primary against Foley, said his boss “pledged to hold weekly news conferences as governor and allow time each week to meet with constituents.”
3. Dannel Malloy, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee and former Stamford Mayor, said he will hold regularly scheduled meetings and press availabilities “on at least a weekly basis” and also “respond directly to questions and concerns as they come up.”
4. Ned Lamont, the Greenwich businessman/millionaire who is mounting a primary against Malloy, said “should I have the honor of serving as governor, I will engage the people of Connecticut openly and often, and I will address the media at least once a week.”