If former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz needs a house in Bristol, Realtor Henri Martin is more than happy to help.
“Does she need a good real estate agent?” asked Martin, the GOP candidate for the seat that incumbent Republican Jason Welch is giving up after two terms.
In a move called “beyond bizarre” by the city’s Republican chairman, Bysiewicz is weighing whether to pick up the pace on her house-hunting so she can move in soon enough to take on Martin for the 31st District Senate seat.
Bysiewicz, 52, said Wednesday she will make a decision “very shortly” about whether to run for seat representing Bristol, Plainville, Plymouth, Thomaston and part of Harwinton.
She said the seat is one “the Democrats have held and can win back.”
The longtime Middletown resident said that with her youngest children in college, she and her husband have been looking at buying a new home, possibly in the historic Federal Hill neighborhood.
Martin said he will continue to pursue his “pretty simple: campaign of pushing for lower state spending and taxes to spur the economy no matter who he faces after the sudden resignation of labor leader Dave Roche from the race on Monday.
Still, he said, “it’s interesting to see some of these rules about what’s allowable.”
Derek Czenczelewski, the city GOP chairman, said Bysiewicz’s potential run “appears to be nothing more than a political opportunist” at work.
“Shame on the Democratic Town Committee if it fails to put forward a candidate that would actually represent the citizens of the 31st District, and not someone's personal political ambition,” he said.
Bysiewicz has long been a favorite of city Democrats, who backed her at the state party convention in 2012 when she challenged Chris Murphy for the U.S. Senate seat he ultimately won. She is especially tight with city Councilor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, a major political player within the party’s ranks.
“Susan has been elected to statewide office three times with huge numbers, and has always done extremely well in the 31st District. If she is the candidate in that district, I feel confident that she will do very well again,” Zoppo-Sassu said.
Bysiewicz said she talked with some of her friends in Bristol politics about houses available on both Federal Hill and Chippens Hill so when they heard Roche was pulling out of the race they called to ask her if she might be interested in taking his place on the ballot.
Bysiewicz said she hadn’t thought about it until then but phoned party leaders in the five towns Monday to hear their thoughts on the idea.
“They were very encouraging,” she said. “I feel very honored by their encouragement and support.”
“I love public service and miss it,” she said, so the prospect of a state Senate run is “certainly something to consider” because it would give her the chance to participate in the legislature while continuing to practice law, “which I love.”
Bysiewicz said that if she decides to run, there is obviously a “very short” timetable for her to find a home and start a campaign, but it’s possible to pull it off.
“Always expect the unexpected in Bristol politics,” said former Mayor Art Ward, a Democrat. He said it “never ceases to amaze.”
A former city GOP chairman, Tom “TJ” Barnes, said, “This has to be the weirdest thing I have ever heard. How does this even think of happening and not undermine the whole concept of representative government? This is a joke, right? ”
Roche said that he hasn’t heard from Bysiewicz.
“How can she run? Is she moving to the district?” he asked.
Former city Councilor Kate Matthews said it is “quite silly” for anyone to think Bysiewicz would move to Bristol just to run for state Senate.
“It is just a lucky coincidence” that she happens to be interesting in buying a house in Bristol, Matthews said.
To pick another candidate, Democratic delegates to the convention that endorsed Roche in May will have to gather again to choose a successor to try to win the open seat created by Welch’s decision not to run for reelection. The law is fuzzy, but Bysiewicz may have to live in the district to become the candidate. She definitely has to do so in order to represent it.
Republican city Councilor Eric Carlson said Bysiewicz had to get out a map “to find where Bristol is.”
But Bysiewicz has come to the city on many occasions over the years, a frequent visitor to political and municipal events. She has ties to many of the city’s political leaders. He husband’s insurance firm has a Harwinton office.
City Councilor Calvin Brown, a first-term Democrat, called her “good on the issues, gifted in the practice of good governance, smart and passionate – all qualities that would serve the 31st wonderfully.”
Ward, though, said it is “going to be quite a stretch” for Bysiewicz to make inroads among voters.
Ward said he would guess “most would be questioning her motivation as to serving her constituency or serving herself. Maybe she should think about getting a job, like lawyering.”
Ward said that “even though I am in need of a cataract operation in July, I can still clearly see the sinister aspect of this act of futility.”
Frank Johnson, a longtime Republican leader, said, “Any entree back into elected office will work for her. She has never allowed ethics, propriety or even facts stand in the way of her political ambitions.”
Calling her "a desperate housewife," city Republican stalwart Art Mocabee said, "She knows nobody but political junkies and union hacks. The voters of the 31st. are much more sophisticated than that."
After serving as secretary of the state from 1999 to 2011, Bysiewicz is a lawyer with the firm of Pastore & Dailey, where she focuses on corporate law and finance, banking, securities, and commercial transactions.
A Yale graduate who attended Duke Law School, Bysiewicz was barred by the state Supreme Court from running for attorney general in 2010 because, the judges ruled, she hadn’t practiced law in the preceding decade as a public official.
The election is Nov. 4. Senators serve two-year terms for $28,000 annually plus stipends for leadership posts.