‘It’s Been Incredibly Humbling’: New Canaan’s Handler Ranks Among Top Republican Gubernatorial Candidates in Individual Contributions for Q3

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Michael Handler during the past three months—the first filing period for the New Canaan Republican since announcing in July that he was running for governor—raised more than $116,000 in individual contributions from about 1,200 people.

Michael Handler at a campaign event. Contributed

While the $116,985 figure places Handler among the most successful GOP candidates seeking the state’s top-elected seat next year, it’s the second number—representing 1,199 individuals who have contributed to his campaign—for which the town resident said he feels most grateful.

“It’s been incredibly humbling, and it has been remarkable,” Handler told NewCanaanite.com.

“The sessions that I have been having have given me a lot of hope that people are focused on the issues. They are receptive to solutions and they are drawn to somebody who not only identifies what the problems are and share their vision, but also can very tangibly touch on the solutions they’re looking for. The message I am trying to convey to people is that it’s not an easy problem to fix, but the issues we face are not all that complex.”

Michael Handler, a New Canaan resident who is a candidate for Connecticut governor. Contributed

Employed as director of administration for Stamford and serving as director of Emergency Management in New Canaan, Handler filed as a candidate in mid-July and launched his campaign in earnest Aug. 1. Since then, he has addressed “connected, concerned” Connecticut residents in private homes and small groups of anywhere from 10 to 80 people, he said, “and it has been a discussion about what are the issues we face in the state.”

Handler calls Connecticut’s central problem “an expense problem” rather than one of revenue.

“People are deeply concerned about the fiscal health of our state, as they should,” he said. “As I am.”

Michael Handler (L) of New Canaan at a campaign event. Contributed

A father of four girls who is married to his wife, Sarah, Handler earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Emory University and a MBA from Columbia University. In 2007, he retired from a 15-year career on Wall Street to enter public service. In New Canaan, Handler is known by many fellow residents as the voice of town wide emergency phone calls—a role he fills as director of emergency management.

He’s running on a platform of using his background in both private finance and public service to negotiate key labor contracts, balance budgets and invest wisely—and doing so largely in the wake of an administration led by Connecticut’s current governor.

Other Republicans who have declared their candidacy include mayors and first selectmen as well as attorneys and state representatives.

Here’s a snapshot of financial disclosure information among the group from the reporting period that ended Sept. 20:

Republican Candidates for CT Governor: Financial Disclosures

Candidate NameRaised through individual contributions**Already raised***ExpensesBalance
David Walker$118,445$0$66,118.14$97,801.86
Michael Handler$116,985$0$17,938.02$99,046.98
Peter Lumaj$92,439$125,614.77$87,757.58$130,296.19
Mark Lauretti$84,580.11$101,622.93$29,284.68$156,918.36
Bob Stefanowski$65,313$0$6,832.99$308,480.01
Stephen Obsitnik$63,696$109,984.88$65,924.89$109,880.13
Prasad Srinivasan$50,430$178,854.19$6,967.92$222,316.27
Tim Herbst$46,897.71$80,909.25$51,308.34$76,538.62
Mark Boughton$33,790$84,299.68$29,077.32$89,012.36
Micah Welintukonis$1,740$2,686.90$50.97$4,375.93
Joe Visconti$270$499.45$747.76$21.69
*Source: Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission
**for the reporting period ended Sept. 30, 2017
***indicates funds raised prior to July-September reporting period through individual contributions only


Handler said he intends to run as a participant in the state’s Citizen’s Election Program. Designed to ensure the integrity of elections in Connecticut, candidates for statewide offices and those in the legislature under the opt-in program receive full public financing in exchange for agreeing to certain guidelines, such as contribution and expenditure limits.

Handler said the ‘CEP,’ as it’s known, gives him “an opportunity to get out and really connect with people.”

Those who have supported Handler are from all types of backgrounds and represent different party affiliations, he said.

“I like the idea that there are no special interests involved,” he said. “I think that to make major changes at the state level, we have to be able to leave special interests behind.”

Handler is now more than halfway to a $250,000 goal under the CEP program. Reviewing his finances, Handler said he is most proud that he’s had such a strong two-thirds of a quarter while keeping spending to a minimum beyond credit card processing and setting up his campaign website.

At $17,938 in expenditures, Handler has sent far less money than several other candidates, including some who have not raised as much. Measured against how much they’ve raised in individual contributions, several candidates have spent three or four times what Handler has on their own campaigns.

“I am told that it resonates with voters: How you run your campaign is how you run the state,” he said.

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