Democrat drops out of attorney general race, endorses Tong

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HARTFORD — State Rep. Mike D’Agostino, D-Hamden, ended his exploration of an attorney general run Wednesday and handed his endorsement to Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford.

Tong, 44, the Ivy League-educated son of Chinese immigrant parents, is co-chairman of the General Assembly's law-writing Judiciary Committee. Outside the legislature, he is a commercial lawyer.

If he wins the Democratic nomination next month and is elected in November, he would become the state's first Asian-American attorney general, representing Connecticut taxpayers and officials in civil court state- and nationwide.

It was easy for D’Agostino to endorse Tong, D’Agostino said, because he has confidence in Tong’s commitment to progressive values and the legal skills needed to defend them.

“This position is the bulwark,” D’Agostino said. “It is the front-line defense against the Trump administration and, God forbid, a Republican governor. I can look at William and I know what his record is, and I know he will be standing up there protecting Connecticut residents.”

Later Wednesday, D’Agostino, a partner in commercial litigation in the Hartford office of the law firm Morgan Lewis, said he will have to spend at least three weeks in Philadelphia immediately after the nominating convention in May. He has a case that did not reach a settlement and is now expected to go to trial.

He appears to have had more than enough delegate support to force a primary against Tong. People close to his campaign said he still needed about $20,000 in donations, none more than $100, to qualify for public financing. The exit could put D’Agostino, 47, in a strong position to run in the future - a possibility he did not rule out.

D’Agostino has advised Hamden’s delegates to support Tong at the Democratic convention next month.

“We feel good going into the convention,” Tong said. “Having run statewide before is a tremendous asset.”

Tong announced he was running for attorney general just over two weeks ago. He unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 2012 and mayor of Stamford in 2013.

Tong is well past the $70,000 threshold he would need for participation in the state's voluntary public-financing program. D’Agostino said he will put the funds he raised toward his re-election to the House.

Tong’s Senate co-chairman of judiciary, Paul Doyle, D-Wethersfield, is also seeking the party nomination for attorney general. Other Democratic candidates for attorney general include former U.S. prosecutor Chris Mattei and Clare Kindall, assistant attorney general under current Attorney General George Jepsen.;

Twitter: @emiliemunson