By Dave Moran
WALLINGFORD - Surrounded by his family, friends and more than 100 supporters, Jerry Farrell Jr., state consumer protection commissioner and a longtime Republican town councilor, declared his candidacy for Secretary of the State Tuesday, pledging to use the office as a vehicle to promote small business growth and as an avenue toward making government more efficient and accountable.
"When someone approaches the secretary of the state about opening a new business, I want them to walk away with the knowledge they need to accomplish their goals," Farrell said during a lengthy speech. "There is so much that the secretary of the state's office, because it is that initial contact for so many new businesses, can do to get our economy going again."
A handful of prominent state Republicans, including Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele, who is seeking his party's nod for governor, and Rob Simmons, a candidate for U.S. Senate, attended Farrell's press conference in the main manufacturing room of Component Engineers on North Plains Industrial Road, as did a number of prominent local Republicans, including Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. and most of the Republican town councilors.
The event was held at the local manufacturer of precision metal components because of the Farrell family's ties to the community, according to Clayton Oliver, Component's office manager.
"They wanted a manufacturing company in the area and they approached us. And we were more than happy to oblige," Oliver said.
Farrell's father, Gerald Farrell Sr., owns a law firm on Center Street and has served as assistant town attorney since 1984. Jerry Farrell serves as an officer for a number of community organizations, including the Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust, and has been on the Town Council since 1996, becoming council vice chairman this month.
"It's somewhat expected, but gratifying," Farrell Sr. said of the large turnout in his son's honor. "He's always been public-spirited. One of the first things I remember him doing is helping to clean out the vault at the old town hall when it moved over to where it is now."
Farrell was appointed consumer protection commissioner in December 2006 by Gov. M. Jodi Rell. Prior to that, he was deputy commissioner for two years and worked as an attorney in his father's firm, Farrell, Leslie & Grochowski, for 11 years.
But Farrell's announcement wasn't simply a partisan affair, as several prominent local Democrats turned out to throw their support behind his candidacy.
"I'm very excited for him," said Iris Papale, a Democrat who left the Town Council at the start of 2008 after more than 30 years. "I think he's going to be perfect. He's qualified, and what a wonderful thing for Wallingford to have someone up there in that position - forget the party line."
Several other candidates are running or considering running for secretary of the state, including Republicans Richard Abbate and Corey Brinson and Democrats Denise Merrill, Jonathan Harris and Gerry Garcia.
Only one town resident, Leverett M. Hubbard, has ever held a statewide office in Connecticut, according to a search of Connecticut State Library records. Hubbard, a Republican who died in 1906, was secretary of the state from 1887 to 1889, according to the library.
But Farrell hadn't even made his announcement official before some in the community began expressing their concerns that with a taxing full-time job, a statewide campaign on his hands and a wife and two young children at home, he might not have enough time for Town Council business.
"I just don't know how he has the time to devote to the council that should be devoted to it, if in fact he's taking on all the challenges of all the positions that he holds," said Vincent Avallone, Democratic town chairman, who did not attend Farrell's press conference. "I just don't know how there are enough hours in the day."
Farrell said he would resign his council position if he is elected secretary of the state, but that until then he does not foresee any time or scheduling conflicts with his other duties.
"I'm going to be there at every meeting this year, making sure that what people elected me for gets done," Farrell said. "I normally get up at 4 a.m. - I got up at 2 a.m. this morning - so if I need to lengthen my day to get everything done, I don't see it as a problem."
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.