Outside state Treasurer’s office, Dita Bhargava outlines her plan for the job

Dita Bhargava ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for state Treasurer in 2018.

Dita Bhargava ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for state Treasurer in 2018.

Bob Luckey Jr. / Hearst Connecticut Media

Outside the state Treasurer’s office Tuesday, Democrat Dita Bhargava of Greenwich unveiled her vision for the job, which focuses on socially responsible investments and blunting the effects of record inflation on the state’s pension portfolio.

Bhargava, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for state Treasurer in 2018, is in a three-way-race against Karen Dubois-Walton, head of the New Haven Housing Authority, and Erick Russell, former vice chair of the state Democratic party and a bond lawyer with Pullman & Comley, both of whom are from New Haven.

State Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, and state Reps. Anne Hughes, D-Easton, and Kerry Wood, D-Rocky Hill, joined Bhargava in Hartford for the release of her campaign platform.

Russell received the party endorsement at the Democratic convention last month. But Bhargava, a former Wall Street trader, cited her prior experience running a statewide campaign and being the first Democrat in the race to raise the $86,600 in small contributions required to apply for the Citizens Election Program.

“I do think that this time around people will remember that they voted for me, remember why they voted for me,” Bhargava said.

Republican state Rep. Harry Arora, of Greenwich, the frontrunner for his party, became the first candidate to qualify for public financing in the race.

In the Democratic race, Bhargava has taken issue with Russell characterizing himself as the “underdog” — a title she said is more apt for her bid — despite receiving the party’s endorsement. “I am not new to being the underdog as a woman who studied electrical engineering, worked in a highly male-dominated industry,” she said.

Russell’s campaign manager pointed to his background working in his family's convenience store, being the first in his family to graduate college, and his status as a leader in the LGBTQ+ community and as a partner at a prominent law firm — and now the endorsed Democratic candidate for state Treasurer.

“If that's not an underdog story, we don't know what is,” Sam Zakur, Russell’s campaign coordinator, said in an issued statement Tuesday.

Ahead of the Aug. 9 primary, Bhargava is positioning herself as a candidate dedicated to both fiscal and social responsibility.

While the main responsibility of the Treasurer is to manage the state’s $44 billion pension fund, Bhargava, whose son died of an opioid overdose in 2018, said the office also has the influence to “bring major banks and corporations to the table and demand change.”

“This office can majorly impact issues ranging from the opioid crisis, economic equality, racism, sexism, pay equity, climate change and so much more,” she said.

The state’s pension portfolio is heavily invested in stock and bonds currently, Bhargava said, but given inflation, the state should shift its investments into real estate and commodities, among other areas. She said she would also seek to negotiate lower fees and costs associated with administering the pension fund.

Bhargava received 43 percent of the vote when she ran against Treasurer Sean Wooden in 2018. Wooden’s unexpected announcement earlier this year that he would not seek reelection set off a flurry among his party about who would replace him. The state Treasurer is one of three open seats for statewide constitutional office this election season.