The 65-year-old former businessman told the crowd packed inside the Gov. William A. O’Neill State Armory on Wednesday that the recent election, which ushered more Democrats into the General Assembly and back-to-back Democratic governors and constitutional officers, marks a fresh start.
“This is our chance to reinvent Connecticut — to think big, act boldly,” said Lamont, who will address a joint session of the General Assembly later in the day.
Lamont has not previously held elected office beyond a two-year stint on the Greenwich Board of Selectman. He has promised he will be different in many ways from fellow Democrat and outgoing Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, offering a unique perspective to solving the state’s continued budget woes while providing a new sense of optimism.
Wednesday also marked the opening day of the five-month legislative session. Lamont’s running mate, Susan Bysiewicz, was sworn into office earlier during a ceremony in the Senate.
Lamont told reporters this week that he wanted to persuade people in his two addresses to believe in Connecticut again. But he acknowledged he’s also a “realist” who understands there’s a budget crisis that must be solved. The fiscal year that begins July 1 is projected to carry an approximate $2 billion deficit.
“I’ve got a dual message,” Lamont said. “And I’ve got to make sure you hear both of those messages.”
Lamont is the first Democrat in 142 years to succeed a fellow Democrat for an open governor’s seat in Connecticut. He also succeeds a governor with some of the lowest approval ratings in the country.
In an open letter to Connecticut residents, Malloy, who did not seek re-election, urged them to be optimistic about the state’s future.
“Of course we have problems, and no we can’t shy away from them,” he wrote. “But recognizing our very real challenges should not mean wallowing in them — it should simply be the first step in overcoming them.”