GOP nominates Kolenberg to run for McDonald’s state Senate seat
Published 2:59 pm, Wednesday, January 12, 2011
STAMFORD -- Bob Kolenberg got a second shot at higher office Tuesday as Republican party delegates nominated the longtime Board of Finance member to run in a February special election for the state Senate seat Andrew McDonald vacated last week.
In a vote that presented no rival candidates at the Stamford Government Center Tuesday evening, 17 delegates unanimously bestowed their blessing on Kolenberg in the race for the District 27 seat, which represents parts of Stamford and Darien.
Kolenberg, accepting the nomination with his wife, Michelle, by his side, said he sees the election as a new opportunity. The private equities investor lost to McDonald in November's election. The seat, however, came up for grabs again last week, when McDonald resigned to serve as general counsel to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
"My dad used to say, `If at first you don't succeed, try, try again,' " Kolenberg said. "I think tonight this is an opportunity to try again at this seat, and I think this time we will be successful."
Kolenberg's brother Tom Kolenberg nominated him for the race, saying his family proved that they would "work harder than you've ever seen" in the six weeks before the Feb. 22 election.
Kolenberg said his brother has earned the nomination as an upstanding community member and successful businessman.
"He's honest, he's ethical, he's a decent man and he would be a great state senator," Kolenberg said.
Board of Finance Chairman Joe Tarzia seconded the nomination, saying Kolenberg has "what it takes to be up in Hartford.
"I know his great concern for the taxpayers of Stamford and Darien. We talk all the time about the need for changes up in Hartford that are dearly needed. I've met very few people in my life who care as much about his fellow man than he does."
Kolenberg, 48, has been a Board of Finance member since 2003 and vice president since 2009. A private equity investor, he most recently owned CorporateCars.com, a wholesale distributor of off-lease vehicles.
Kolenberg said his experience in both the public and private sectors put him in a unique position to help a state that is struggling financially.
"Connecticut is facing many issues right now, we're looking at a $4 billion deficit. We're looking at jobs leaving the state. In this district, we're looking at not getting our fair share of education dollars. These are issues I'm going to address when I go to Hartford," Kolenberg said.
The special election is expected to pit Kolenberg against state Democratic Rep. Carlo Leone. Leone, 47, who won a fifth term in November representing the 148th District, which includes the Glenbrook and Cove sections of Stamford. He works as a program manager at the Bridgeport-based nonprofit WorkPlace Inc.
Stamford and Darien delegates from the Democratic party are to nominate a candidate Saturday morning at the Stamford Democratic headquarters on High Ridge Road, Democratic City Committee Chairwoman Ellen Camhi said. Major parties have until Jan. 18 to endorse candidates for state Senate and House seats, and petitioning candidates have until then to file their nominating petitions.
Kolenberg said he expects the race to be a tough battle.
"This is going to be a hard campaign," he said. "This district is heavily Democratic, so we're going to have to work for every single vote."
But his time around, Kolenberg knows he can count on two votes he didn't have in November. The Board of Finance member's two eldest sons are turning 18 on Feb. 17.
"The joke around our house is that if I win by two votes, we'll have them to thank for it," he said.
Staff writer Magdalene Perez can be reached at email@example.com or 203-964-2240.