The Weicker connection: Warner, Potts refute Connecticut newspaper report

The Top Story by Chris Graham

The conspiracy theorists have been having a field day with the report in the Feb. 25 edition of The Hartford Courant that offered up details into how Virginia Democratic Gov. Mark Warner apparently helped to introduce independent gubernatorial candidate Russ Potts to former independent Connecticut governor Lowell Weicker and indirectly to senior campaign consultant Thomas D’Amore.

Will the news that Potts and Warner have both refuted the Courant report have the expected cooling effect on the punditry?

“I initiated the call to Gov. Weicker. That’s how it happened,” Potts told The Augusta Free Press on Thursday.

“The governor’s recollection of what happened was that he was at a party that Lowell Weicker happened to be at. He knows Lowell Weicker, and at one point in the party, when they were talking, Lowell Weicker said to the governor that a Republican state senator who was thinking about running for governor as an independent had called him and that they had set up a meeting,” said Ellen Qualls, Warner’s press secretary.

“The governor responded that Russ Potts is a good friend of his and that he thought the two would have a good time talking to each other. That’s the extent of it. The story in The Hartford Courant made them out to be matchmakers, but that is just not true,” Qualls told the AFP on Wednesday.

The Courant story did make Warner and Weicker, who are neighbors in Alexandria, out to be “matchmakers.”

Staff writer Mark Pazniokas, who penned the piece, “Eager D’Amore gets back in chase,” focused his attention in the article on the latest doings of D’Amore, the former chair of the Connecticut Republican Party and Weicker’s former chief of staff.

“Up here, the story about how D’Amore and Potts met each other didn’t carry any weight. The important thing for us was how Tom D’Amore was getting involved in politics again,” Pazniokas told the AFP on Wednesday.

“When I caught up with him, I asked him how this all came about. He laughed and said, ‘Guess who?’ I said, ‘Weicker?’ He said that Weicker knew Mark Warner, and that Warner had introduced him to Russ Potts,” Pazniokas said.

“D’Amore never suggested to me that he thought that Warner was trying to intervene on behalf of a candidate or trying to do something that would end up supporting an independent gubernatorial campaign. But he did say that Warner had introduced Potts to Lowell Weicker, and that Weicker had decided that it would be helpful to introduce him to Tom D’Amore,” Pazniokas said.

Messages left with D’Amore and Weicker for comment on this story were not returned.

Potts said Thursday that he called Weicker early last summer to set up their initial meeting.

“We had a good meeting. We discussed how I was fed up with the direction of the Republican Party in Virginia, with their obsession with social issues, how they’re always saying no, no, no, and not offering any solutions. It was a great conversation,” Potts said.

“When we set the meeting, he had to set it two weeks in advance because of his schedule. Apparently, he ran into Gov. Warner at a reception, because he told me when we met that he had talked to Gov. Warner, and he said, ‘I asked about you, and he had a lot of nice things to say,’ ” Potts said.

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