CommunityPam's House Blend

Holy Joe facing a challenger?

He’s got to go. Can Ned Lamont knock him off?

Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont moved closer Monday toward a challenge of U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman as he created a candidate committee, named a campaign manager and began searching for a headquarters.

“It is a significant step forward,” said Tom Swan, who is managing what he says is still an exploratory campaign. “I am happy that Ned asked me to play a role within this campaign.”

Lamont, 52, the president and founder of a cable television company, Lamont Digital Systems, stepped forward last month as the possible champion for Democrats disaffected with Lieberman’s support for President Bush and the war in Iraq.

In the past weeks, Lamont has created a website and embarked on an informal speaking tour to gauge support for a challenge of Lieberman, a three-term senator who was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000.

Lamont has said that he will not move beyond an exploratory campaign until at least 1,000 volunteers sign up on his campaign website,

You can read a Q&A; with Lamont at the Connecticut Local Politics blog on his differences with Holy Joe.

There’s also a piece in the Hartford Advocate on Lamont’s testing of the waters and the hill he has to climb to beat Lieberman and the Dem machine.

Lamont hasn´t even officially declared himself a candidate, but there are signs that Lieberman and his supporters consider him a real threat. For example, the top liberal blog Daily Kos claimed that Lieberman is “freaking out” and reaching out for support among Democratic leaders in Washington, D.C. While that may be wishful thinking, Lieberman also told the Republican-American he was prepared to run as an independent if he lost the primary.

…Fairfield University politics professor John Orman said that to get on the primary ballot so voters have a chance to pick him over Lieberman, Lamont would first need to receive the support of 15 percent of the town committee members who are convention delegates.

Orman, who briefly ran against Lieberman last year until it was clear he had little support, said he´s only heard of two or three Democratic Town Committee chairs who have spoken up against Lieberman, out of some 200 town committees. The strong institutional resistance to challengers helps explain why Lieberman is in his 18th year as senator and will probably serve another six years. ¨In Connecticut, if you´re the type of person who has a career in politics and wants to move up the ladder, you´d be crazy to run against Joe Lieberman,¨ Orman said. ¨That would be the end of your political career.

So it takes a party outsider or a maverick to pull off a huge political upset and get all the citizen action groups together and all the progressive groups and get people who are really upset with Joe,” Orman said. A millionaire like Lamont might be able to do it, Orman said, as could a celebrity on par with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Will there be a groundswell of anti-Joe grassroots support for Lamont, or will the machine crush him, despite his deep pockets?

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding