Boucher entertains bid for Congress
State Sen. Toni Boucher, a Wilton Republican who has devoted her legislative career to education reform and dared to publicly go where few in her own party would concerning the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, is opening the door to a run for Congress.
The longtime legislator, who was elected to the state Senate in 2008 after serving in the state House for a dozen years, appears to be gaining traction in GOP circles as a potential challenger to U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Greenwich, in the Fourth Congressional District.
Boucher, 62, acknowledged that she discussed the prospect of seeking higher officer with state GOP Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. after supporters encouraged her to jump into the race.
"I think that if I were to make a decision to run, I certainly could probably produce a strong showing. I'm sure," Boucher told Hearst Connecticut Media Group in an interview Monday.
However, Boucher was somewhat coy on whether she plans to seek re-election in the 26th Senatorial District.
"At this point in time, that's highly likely," Boucher said. "(But) I've learned one thing in politics -- that anything could change at a moment's notice."
Boucher's district includes all of Wilton, Westport, Redding, Ridgefield and parts of New Canaan, Weston and Bethel.
"She's from the heart of the district and she represents a large footprint within the district and she would be a formidable contender for the nomination," Labriola said in a recent interview.
Boucher would join a field of three other contenders for the GOP nomination: Chris Meek of Stamford, David Orner of Darien and Steve Obsitnik of Westport.
"We had a productive meeting a couple of months ago to discuss some options for Toni," said Labriola, who is uncommitted in the race.
"As far as I know, she's weighing several factors," Labriola said. "She enjoys representing her constituents and I'm not sure she's inclined to make this move, but she would be more than qualified if she would consider running for the U.S. Congress."
Boucher said she has met all three declared GOP candidates and considers each one to be of high character and possessing different skill sets that could make them viable in the general election against Himes, who is in his second term after unseating the 21-year incumbent, Republican Christopher Shays, in 2008.
"I'm hopeful that we'll have an outstanding candidate that will meet the task," Boucher said.
Boucher characterized herself as a fiscal conservative who is "somewhat moderate" on social issues.
A staunch opponent of a bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, which passed in both chambers of the General Assembly and was signed into law by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy last year, Boucher sparked controversy when she publicly suggested that Malloy's support of the measure was tied to his son's previous run-ins with the law.
In March 2009, Malloy's son Ben, then 21, was arrested on charges of attempted armed robbery after an incident involving a marijuana deal in Darien. He was sentenced to probation. He had previously been arrested for marijuana possession in November 2007.
"We had a discussion about that and a personal apology about that," Boucher said.
Boucher said that both she and Malloy agreed that family matters are private and have no place in politics.
"I do believe that if you're in the public sector," Boucher said.
Boucher stood by her views on marijuana, however, saying pot use takes it toll on children, their families, law enforcement and state agencies.
"We all know that young people are going to test the envelope and break the rules," Boucher said.
Boucher, who is married with three children, works for a finance and investment firm that often requires her to travel, she said. She was born in the Campania region of Italy and immigrated with her parents to Naugatuck when she was 5 years old. They came from humble beginnings and lived on a farm in the old country, she said.
"I've never had blinding ambition," Boucher said. "I've had a passion for the issues and that all plays into this as well."
-- Staff writer Neil Vigdor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 203-625-4436.