Former Webster CEO Smith decides against run for Connecticut governor

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James Smith, the former CEO of Webster Financial in Waterbury, Conn., will not run for governor of Connecticut after all.

Earlier this month, Smith said that he was considering a run for the Republican nomination for governor, but on Tuesday, he said he had decided against it because his enrollment in the Republican Party in March came too late to meet the deadline for participating in the party’s August primary. Smith had previously been registered as an Independent, according to news reports.

“While I could make a creditable challenge to the interpretation of enrollment rules as they apply to candidates, I’ve elected not to do so since such an action could disrupt the nomination process and divert attention from the important issues faced by our great but faltering state,” Smith, 69, said in an email. “My goal as a candidate was to compete within the party, not with the party.”

Smith, who is still chairman of the $26.5 billion-asset Webster, became interested in potentially running for governor after co-chairing a panel of mainly private-sector leaders tasked with proposing solutions to the state’s fiscal and economic problems. He stepped down as Webster's CEO on Dec. 31 after serving in the position for 30 years.

“I committed to keep policy ahead of politics through the commission’s life, and to the extent that faithfully completing my work on the commission could preclude me from participating in the primary, then so be it,” Smith said of the timing of his enrollment in the party.

Among its main challenges, Connecticut is struggling with a multimillion-dollar budget deficit, a declining population and a shrinking corporate tax base.

In response, the commission proposed 10 major recommendations, which included raising the minimum wage, ending collective bargaining with state employees, and raising tolls and gas taxes to pay for transportation infrastructure.

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