Congressman urges Conn.'s Rowland to quit

Shays, other Republicans speak out

public support for governor erodes

January 13, 2004|By Christopher Keating | Christopher Keating,HARTFORD COURANT

Gov. John G. Rowland's support among fellow Republican office-holders fell again yesterday as six more GOP senators and an influential member of Congress urged him to resign.

U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, once so close to Rowland that they briefly shared Rowland's Washington condominium as members of Congress in the late 1980s, said the governor "has done wrong" and should step down. His statement followed by hours the release of a new University of Connecticut poll showing 63 percent of the public wants Rowland to resign.

In a remarkable turnaround for a once-popular three-term governor, two of the state's three congressional Republicans and 11 of the 15 GOP state senators believe the state would be better off without Rowland.

And his status as a subject of a wide-ranging federal investigation into possible bid-rigging and bribery in his administration has Republicans wondering whether Rowland should attend a $2,000-per-person fund-raiser in Greenwich on Jan. 29 with President Bush.

"I don't think that would be appropriate for him to be there under the current conditions," said Rep. Claudia Powers, the third-highest-ranking Republican in the state House of Representatives. "It would be more appropriate for the lieutenant governor to be there. I would be concerned that the governor would be a distraction."

Rowland's abrupt loss of support from his own party - since Friday, GOP caucuses in the House and Senate have called for investigations that could lead to his impeachment, and U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons also called for him to resign - is seen by some as a consequence of Rowland's failure to build loyalty during his nine years as governor.

Sen. George "Doc" Gunther, a 38-year veteran at the Capitol, said Rowland has burned many Republicans during the past nine years. The problems reportedly range from unreturned phone calls to refusals to hold fund-raisers for low-level Republicans who had helped Rowland when he needed campaign cash.

"I've had lots of messages in with him for nine years, and a lot haven't come out," said Gunther. "You don't talk to the king. [Former Gov. Lowell P.] Weicker and I had no use for each other, but almost every governor who was up here, I could go into his office without an appointment. Loyalty is a one-way street with him. He's King John."

Through the years, only a relative handful of staffers have remained at Rowland's side for extended periods. He has appointed four chiefs of staff, four state GOP chairmen, five press secretaries and at least five legal counsels.

When things turned sour, Rowland rarely even talked to the departing person, preferring instead to let the chief of staff handle any difficult conversations. When Public Works Commissioner Theodore Anson and press secretary Michele Sullivan both abruptly left state service last year, neither spoke with Rowland, sources said. Instead, all dealings were handled through Dean Pagani, the chief of staff.

Pagani, who since Sullivan's departure has also served as spokesman, repeated yesterday that Rowland would not resign.

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing Newspaper.

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