Toni Boucher and the Republican party

Toni Boucher has announced the formation of an exploratory committee for a possible run for governor.

While the odds for each of the hopefuls of actually getting the nomination are long, Toni has certainly garnered a well-deserved reputation for working tirelessly and effectively for her constituents. She’s also found many productive ways of reaching across the political aisle, building working relationships and even friendships at a time when that skill is sorely lacking. Most recently, this work has borne fruit, among other things, in state gun-control legislation as Toni helped to forge the reasonable compromises that made passage possible even as no passable bill could ever completely satisfy everyone on both sides.

The trust that comes to exist between politicians seeking to build relationships across the aisle needs constant nurturing. It is earned by consistency over time based on seeking out and studying the facts and patiently hearing out those with strong opinions on both sides of an issue before taking a position. It is further enhanced, even after taking that position, by evincing a willingness to explore in a broad-based way the common ground that can make for actual forward progress. That is tough work in which doctrinal positions need to adjust to the complexities of the facts as they actually present themselves and to the reality of what can be accomplished.

Frankly, I don’t know why anyone would want to serve in political office these days. The amount of ad hominem attack one must bear is appalling, and that, combined with the essential yet constant pressure of meeting constituents’ needs, creates daunting job demands. Yet that is an environment in which Toni clearly thrives, and we are the fortunate beneficiaries of it — just as we are with Richard Blumenthal, Bill Brennan, Jim Himes, Gail Lavielle, Chris Murphy, and the many others on both sides of the aisle who serve our needs well.

A Republican governor who can effectively reach across the aisle has much to offer our state, especially one with the judgment, integrity and desire to do good that are integral to who Toni is. Republicans can certainly offer a strong sense of fiscal discipline, but as they do so, they should be mindful of the needs of those impacted as programs that people rely on are affected. Whether it’s government pensions that have gotten out of hand yet on which their recipients legitimately relied in making employment decisions for the long term, or beneficiaries of government-aid programs, care needs to be taken. But more than that, some humility needs to be shown as we recognize that Wilton, under Republican leadership, has certainly itself taken advantage of state funding aggressively for support of everything from commuter rail service to very successful public/private partnerships.

Connecticut is one of five states where the number of registered independent voters exceeds that of either major party. In our state’s case, independents weigh in at a hefty 40% of all registered voters. I’m one of those 40%. One recurring worry for me about Republican candidates for statewide and national office is the role of the Tea Party and like groups with a “my-way-or-the-highway” approach that makes the process of political compromise daunting, to say the least. How strongly must a Republican seeking statewide office be found to be “Tea-Party qualified” to gain the party’s nod? I don’t know, but I sense that a tried and true Tea Party-er would rather see the party’s candidate go down in defeat than compromise on the issues.

To the extent that the Tea Party has a significant say in the selection of the Republican Party’s state-wide candidates, the Republican Party is going to have its hands full attracting independent voters like me to support its candidates for office. The good news is that around here, the Republican Party’s elected officials contribute to the public good well without Tea Partying ever seeming to be much of an issue.

That being said, I sense that these able and dedicated Republican Party members also have faced significant challenges in pursuing that course in light of the Tea Party’s influence on their party. However, that Tea Party influence seems to be waning generally so that we may see a return to a Republican Party regularly fielding statewide (and national) candidates like Toni who represent what a party that has built a laudable record of transformation of our nation for the good from the time of Lincoln forward can offer.

I wish Toni the best in her exploratory work.

Mr. Hudspeth lives on Glen Hill Road.