R. Nelson "Oz" Griebel, a longtime business executive, officially declared his candidacy for governor Thursday by saying he will think big, talk straight and take decisive action.
Griebel, 60, has never held elective office but has gained a reputation for leadership in Hartford as the former chairman of the state's Transportation Strategy Board and president of the MetroHartford Alliance for the past nine years.
"Why run at 60 years old after being in the private sector all these years?" Griebel asked rhetorically in an outdoor announcement under the state Capitol's north portico, snow falling nearby. The answer, he said, is that the state needs leadership in a difficult time.
Griebel will face Tom Foley of Greenwich, the former U.S. ambassador to Ireland, and Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele of Stamford, the two front-runners for the Republican nomination. Former U.S. Rep. Larry DeNardis of Hamden and Chester First Selectman Thomas E. Marsh also have begun exploring gubernatorial campaigns.
Known for taking independent stands, Griebel said the state must consider ending the lucrative pensions for new state employees and installing a type of 401(k) plan that is more common in the private sector. He said state employee benefits "have to be put on the table" as the state faces continuing budget problems that include a projected deficit of $500 million in the current fiscal year and even higher deficits in the future.
"I recognize there are state employee contracts that have to be honored," Griebel said.
Griebel, a Simsbury resident for the past 16 years, said he essentially would serve as the state's chief economic development officer and would work to make changes in "a state that has a reputation of being anti-business and anti-jobs." As a candidate, he said, he would have "no allegiance to polls, re-election or any constituency" that failed to push for the state's best interests in difficult financial times.
Griebel also said he would favor re-installing tolls on state highways, as long as the money is guaranteed to go into a "lock box" before being spent exclusively for transportation purposes.
"The tolls have to be part of this whole discussion," he said. "If somebody could show me another way to put $225-plus million into the system that was better than that, I would listen to it. The goal isn't tolls for itself. The goal is to get the funding for transportation."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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