HARTFORD, Conn. - Eliot Spitzer was once the next Richard Blumenthal.
Blumenthal, Connecticut's long-standing Attorney General, now hopes to follow Spitzer's path to a Governor's Mansion.
Blumenthal currently is planning to run for Governor in three years and has a good chance at success, says Kevin Rennie, a South Windsor attorney and Hartford Courant columnist who previously served in the state's Legislature.
"He's telling (Democratic leadership) that he's really going to run," Rennie said. "He's gone to the brink at various other times. His potential has always seen by both sides as very strong, but he's always drawn back -- sometimes early in the process, sometimes a little later."
Spitzer parlayed his role as an ever-present attorney general in New York into becoming the state's governor in 2006. Blumenthal, meanwhile, has also kept his name in the headlines since his election in 1990 -- usually for his work as attorney general, but sometimes for flirting with the governorship.
"At the time, we saw it as Spitzer following Blumenthal's path. Then he overtook him," Rennie said. "In some ways, Blumenthal is Eliot Spitzer without the potty mouth."
Rennie said Blumenthal would have won had he run in 1994, but "he was in his first term as AG and may not have wanted to take the risk."
"Connecticut has an unhappy tradition of people staying in high offices for a long, long time," Rennie added, "so that's nothing unusual. Twenty years (as attorney general), that will be a long run."
State Democrats don't expect Jodi Rell, the state's current Republican governor, to run for re-election, Rennie said. That will likely make Blumenthal an even more appealing choice, as he would become the first Democratic governor elected since 1986.
"He's very popular. I think he's the highest vote-getter regularly," Rennie said. "Events could always intervene, but I think he's very tough for the Republicans to take on. He's become a fixture, is well-known and has been around a long time."
Earlier this year, the Competitive Enterprise Institute ranked Blumenthal as the worst state attorney general in recent history (LegalNewsline's coverage can be found here). CEI is a nonprofit public policy organization that is "dedicated to advancing the principles of free enterprise and limited government."
Hans Bader, who wrote the report, called Blumenthal "a tireless crusader for growing the power of his own office and spreading largesse to his cronies."
Bader focused largely on Blumenthal's role in litigation against tobacco companies, starting with the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.
"Wealthy trial lawyers across the nation received $14 billion nationally in attorneys' fees under a $246 billion-plus settlement paid for primarily by smokers -- the alleged victims of the very fraud that begat the settlement," Bader said.
The report says Blumenthal steered $65 million in fees to his own allies and the associates of former Gov. John Rowland, later convicted of corruption in an unrelated matter.
It adds that Blumenthal went "through the motions" of soliciting letters from firms interested in representing the state in the lawsuit. Of the four he selected, one was his former firm, another's partner was married to a partner in the first firm and a managing partner in the third served as counsel to Rowland.
While the CEI obviously will have concerns about Blumenthal becoming governor, it's not likely to matter, Rennie said. He feels that most of Blumenthal's critics don't live in Connecticut.
"He makes a lot of news," Rennie said.