Herbst seeks to sway state voters

First Selectman Tim Herbst.
First Selectman Tim Herbst.

Two years after making a run for statewide office, First Selectman Tim Herbst has launched a project to aid state Republicans in their fight to gain control of the General Assembly.

“We are four seats away from winning a majority in the Senate, and 12 seats away in the House,” Herbst said.

In 2008, Republicans controlled just 36 seats and Democrats 115. The current breakdown is 87-64, meaning Republicans can take control with a net gain of 12 seats. Democrats control the Senate 20-15, with Bridgeport Senator Ed Gomes elected last year as a member of the Working Families Party. Gomes affiliates with the Democrats.

Herbst launched his political action committee, called TimPAC, last week with a goal of supporting GOP candidates primarily in the Naugatuck Valley and in the eastern parts of the state. Conventional wisdom is that this will be a tough year for Republicans in traditionally Democratic-leaning Connecticut, but Herbst expressed confidence in his party’s chances.

“If you look at the Valley and Eastern Connecticut, Donald Trump could run very strong in those areas,” Herbst said. He also cited Gov. Dannel Malloy’s approval ratings that are in the 20s. While Malloy is not on the ballot this year, anger at the state economy could result in high turnout among Republican and moderate Democratic voters, he said.

Herbst’s PAC will allow him to directly support Republicans in their races, with some limitations. For example, a PAC may run ads in favor of or against candidates or may run issue-oriented ad campaigns that contrast candidate positions on various topics. A PAC cannot strategize with the candidates’ own campaign though.

“That’s the biggest rule, we can’t collaborate with the candidates,” he said.

Political commentators in the state have noted that Herbst, who lost a narrow race to Denise Nappier for state treasurer in 2014, could be laying the groundwork for a 2018 run for statewide office, possibly even governor. Herbst, though, was coy about his future plans.

“I have made no decision about running for any office,” he said. “Right now my focus is on making Trumbull the greatest town in America, and winning control of the Assembly will make me and other Republicans like Mark Lauretti of Shelton even more effective in doing great things for our communities.”