NOW that Gov. Lowell Weicker (Ind.) has decided not to seek reelection, the political future of ``A Connecticut Party'' remains unclear.
Governor Weicker, the party's standard-bearer for three years, created ACP in the wake of his 1990 run for governor. Now, his lieutenant governor, Eunice Groark, will be taking over the party's leadership post.
Earlier this month, she announced her candidacy for governor under the ACP banner - though even she recognizes there will be something of a stature gap.
``I'm not larger than life'' like Lowell Weicker, Lieutenant Governor Groark says in an interview. ``I'm not the person who is perhaps as loud in the proverbial sense. And yet ... I'm knowledgeable, and I have the guts to do it.''
ACP chairman Diane Blick says Weicker was the catalyst for the party, but she, too, believes it can survive without its philosophical patron. ``He represents the dissatisfaction with the political parties as they were. People have welcomed him, and they have welcomed the lieutenant governor,'' she says.
Groark believes ACP will prevail in the election since voters are concerned more about people who can get the job done rather than partisan politics. She points to a recent Hartford Courant study showing that 36 percent of those surveyed favor a governor of neither major party.
But with a total of only some 1,600 members statewide, ACP is a small political force compared to the two major parties. And with Weicker no longer at the helm, observers question whether the party will continue to be influential.
``It's a party that is really dominated by the governor,'' says John Carson, president of Connecticut Policy and Economic Council. ``The challenge for Groark is whether she can successfully take over ... and expand the base of the party between now and election time in 1994.''
WHILE there is dissatisfaction with the two major parties, ACP lacks an organizational base and a strong sense of party loyalty, says G. Donald Ferree, a political pollster at the University of Connecticut at Storrs.
``There are people who think of themselves as Democrats and people who think of themselves as Republicans, but very few people think of themselves as loyal members of `A Connecticut Party,' '' he says.
Besides Groark, the list of candidates in the 1994 gubernatorial race includes state Senators Richard Balducci and John Larson on the Democratic side. No Republicans have tossed their hats into the ring yet.