FROM this impoverished industrial city in southwestern
Connecticut, Gov. Lowell Weicker conducts his work from a modest
first-floor suite in a downtown office building.
It is appropriately spare quarters for the grim urban landscape
outside, but one that is a world away from his usual work place in
the ornate Capitol building an hour north in Hartford.
"Very frankly, downtown Bridgeport has next to nothing," the
governor says, very frankly, in a Monitor interview. "There is a
perception that downtown Bridgeport isn't a safe place to be. How
do you rebuild?"
One of his answers is to maintain this "satellite" office, out
of which he and his staff occasionally work. The theory is that, as
he puts it, "if you want to do business with the governor of the
state of Connecticut, you'll have to come down here and do it."
It is perhaps an unconventional way for a governor to try to
spark an industrial renaissance, but characteristic of this
longtime maverick politician.
Blunt, outspoken, independent, Governor Weicker has never had a
problem doing things his way. In his three years as governor and
three terms in the United States Senate, he has built a reputation
as one of the country's most courageous, controversial, and
First he bucked the Republican Party to become an independent.
Then he led the fight to impose Connecticut's first income tax, to
name just two things. Earlier this month, he did another
appropriately Weickeresque thing: he announced, abruptly, that he
will not run again in 1994.
"I mean, what an adventure!" he is saying of his three decades
in politics. "Granted, you have to go into it sort of being
willing to roll the dice every day of the year for 30 years, which
is my style, which is what I'm comfortable with. But it sure makes
Elected governor as an independent in 1990 under his own party,
called "A Connecticut Party," Weicker is leading the state
through rocky economic times. One of his answers to the fiscal
crisis, the 1991 income tax, prompted Time magazine to annoint him
the "gutsiest governor in America."
Weicker felt he had to impose the levy to overcome a $2 billion
deficit. But the move brought widespread protests - and still does
- from anti-tax advocates.
"I expected it," he says simply of the criticism, blaming it
on the anti-tax sentiment whipped up during the Reagan-Bush years.
Weicker was also never afraid to distance himself from the
political mainstream during his days in Washington. A former
liberal Republican, he gained national recognition in the Senate
for his outspoken criticism of the Nixon administration during
Dressed in a blue shirt, tan pants, tie, and suspenders, Weicker
strikes a casual pose as he sits cross-legged on a sofa. Giving the
appearance of a man at ease with himself, he speaks his mind on a
range of subjects - including the party he left.
He calls the GOP today a "narrow band of right-wing