Story By John Murray
The Observer has confirmed that Jim Smith, the recently retired CEO of Webster Bank, will launch a Republican bid for Governor of Connecticut next week. Smith had contemplated a run last Autumn, but instead hurled himself into the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth, an independent commission created of business executives that sought to address the state's budget woes.
The commission unveiled three dozen recommendations at the state legislature, which have not been embraced by either party. Last night Republican candidates for governor criticized many of the commission's recommendations, all but guaranteeing that Smith would seek to take the commission's fight to save Connecticut directly to Hartford himself.
Smith had been a member of the Independent Party until a month ago, when he joined the Republican Party. Entering the race at this late date Smith will face a challenge securing enough delegates to get on a ballot for a GOP primary, but he can muscle his way on to the ballot by collecting signatures.
The Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth commission's message did not resonate with many elected officials, but Smith is counting on taking the message directly to the people of Connecticut. Can he win? Don't count out Jim Smith. His father started a bank with a $25,000 loan in the middle of the Great Depression. When Smith retired on January 1st, 2018, Webster Bank has $25 billion in assets and was being traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
Jim Smith lives in Middlebury, but he has worked in downtown Waterbury his entire career, and both he and his father, Harold Webster Smith, are members of the Waterbury Hall of Fame.
Is it time for an accomplished business executive to change the political culture in Hartford? We're about to find out.