Crowded field as state political party conventions start

Expect some political fireworks as Connecticut Democrats and Republicans gather tonight and Saturday for their state conventions. Thousands of party loyalists will endorse candidates for seven statewide offices.
Friday night, Republicans nominated Bob Stefanowski as their candidate for governor, along with state Rep. Laura Devlin of Fairfield as his running mate. Stefanowski was also Gov. Ned Lamont's opponent in 2018.
Democrats will also nominate Sen. Richard Blumenthal for reelection. Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz will be nominated the next day.
The real drama comes Saturday, as a crowded field battles it out for other statewide seats.
Four candidates want to challenge Sen. Richard Blumenthal. The race could partly hinge on abortion rights, just days after a leaked draft opinion suggested the Supreme Court is about to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The GOP front-runner, former state Rep. Themis Klarides, is vocally pro-choice. Her three opponents are not.
Connecticut Republican Party chair Ben Proto believes abortion will be a deciding factor for some delegates, but not most.
"Delegates are no different than any other voters -- that they look at candidates holistically, not myopically," he said. "And they look at everywhere where they're at on it."
Republicans also have three choices for secretary of the state:
State Rep. Terrie Wood of Darien
Brock Weber, an aide to Mayor Erin Stewart of New Britain
Dominic Rapini, a former U.S. Senate candidate
The hot race is a five-way competition to replace Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, a fixture in state politics who is retiring:
State Sen. Matt Lesser of Middletown
State Rep. Hilda Santiago of Meriden
State Rep. Stephanie Thomas of Norwalk
State Rep. Josh Elliott of Hamden
Maritza Bond, New Haven's health director
The race has turned ugly in the past 48 hours, marked by accusations that Lesser tried to rig the order of nominating votes and that Santiago falsely implied Lamont is endorsing her because she's Hispanic.
On Thursday, the governor insisted he's not backing anyone.
"I'm not putting my thumb on the scale," he said. "Broadly speaking, I've always championed the most diverse team I could."
Democratic delegates also have three candidates to choose from in the race for state treasurer:
Dita Bhargava of Greenwich
Erick Russell of Newtown
Karen Dubois Newtown
Regardless of who gets endorsed, some of these battles won't get settled this weekend. Any candidate that receives 15% of delegates' votes at the convention or collects enough signatures from registered voters later can force a primary on Aug. 9.