Seasoned political observers will recall that the job of State Comptroller carried little weight in terms of governing a generation ago. At state elections it was the office used to balance a ticket based on diversity or geography.

For all of the time Connecticut has had a Constitution (and it is the “Constitution State”) the office of Comptroller had been the backroom bean counter and, according to law, provided “accounting and financial services, to administer employee benefits, to develop accounting policy and exercise accounting oversight, and to prepare financial reports for state, federal and municipal governments and the public.”

That started to change in 1991 when Democrat Bill Curry, a former state senator, got elected. Curry, an activist and policy wonk, who would become the gubernatorial nominee in 1994, raised the visibility of Comptroller considerably. Incumbent Nancy Wyman took up where Curry left off and has used the office to contribute to fiscal policy ideas, health care reform and the management of the state’s finances. Under the Rell administration Wyman has emerged almost as a shadow governor delivering the sober news about state budget deficits and calling attention to the difficult choices Connecticut faces amid recession and dwindling tax bases.

Kevin Lembo, the state Health Care Advocate, is now running for state comptroller having abandoned an exploratory run for Lt. Governor when Nancy Wyman moved on to seek that office.

He gets my vote for the role he’s played in helping residents deal with the health care system, especially the insidious practice of insurers denying coverage to people who thought they were insured. He may be the most experienced candidate in the race, having served as assistant State Comptroller for health insurance and implementing GAAP (You can ask your accountant what GAAP stands for). He co-chairs with Nancy Wyman the commission established under the Sustinet Plan to implement universal health care and as the state Comptroller would play a big rule in implementing such reforms as health care pools for local governments and small businesses (Pools = improved benefits at lower costs)

Meeting Kevin Lembo you can sense that this is an individual who believes in making real change in government at many levels. That, along with a hands-on progressive Governor, is what will be needed to, in Lembo’s words, “reverse the years of neglect our state has suffered and regain the ground we’ve lost.”

Lembo has my vote for continuing a more active and useful Comptroller’s office and for what he will say and do about fiscal policy and management of state government. He’ll make the bean counters in Hartford work in the best interests of citizens.

– John McNamara, Democratic Town Chair, New Britain