Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy (search) created a committee Tuesday to run for governor in 2006, getting an early jump on what could be a crowded field of Democrats hoping to succeed troubled Republican Gov. John G. Rowland (search).

Malloy, who has eyed the office for months, said scandal enveloping Rowland was not a factor in his decision to enter the race more than two years before the election.

"What has pushed me is the reality time is moving on," Malloy said, citing the possibility of other candidates. "This is the first step in what will no doubt be a political marathon."

Malloy faces potentially stiff competition from within his party. New Haven Mayor John DeStefano has already announced his intention to run. Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz has said she has raised $500,000 to explore the possibility of running. Former U.S. Rep. James Maloney said this week he will run for a statewide office, possibly governor. And Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has said he will make a decision at a future date.

"Everyone senses the next governor will be a Democrat given the corruption and extraordinary mismanagement of the Rowland administration," said George Jepsen, chairman of the state Democratic Party.

U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., is another possible candidate for governor, Jepsen said.

"I think there is a legitimate chance that Chris would run for governor as a capstone to his very distinguished career," Jepsen said.

Marvin Fast, a spokesman for Dodd, said the senator intends to run for re-election in the fall.

"He has no plans to do anything at this point but to continue to work in the Senate," Fast said.

Rowland faces numerous calls to resign for accepting gifts from state contractors, employees and friends for his Litchfield cottage and then lying about it. The House of Representatives formed a committee last month to investigate Rowland and recommend whether he should be impeached. The governor is a subject of a federal corruption investigation.

Malloy, who has been mayor of Connecticut's fourth largest city for nine years, called for more transparent government.

"I'm talking about a fundamental change in our approach to government," Malloy said. "When government becomes a closed insider game this kind of stuff can play itself out."

Other key issues include "staggeringly high" property taxes, education funding and transportation to address the region's traffic congestion, Malloy said.

Malloy, a 48-year-old former prosecutor, cited his success in revitalizing Stamford and reducing the crime rate. The Fairfield County city has fared better than some other major cities in the state that have been plagued by corruption, declining populations, crime and other issues.

Establishing the candidate committee allows Malloy to begin raising money for the race. Malloy estimated the race will require $4 million to $6 million.

Jepsen, a Stamford resident who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2002, said Malloy is an excellent candidate because he is articulate, a good fund-raiser and has done a good job leading Stamford. Stamford has the highest number of voters on Election Day in Connecticut because of a higher turnout than other cities with larger populations, Jepsen said.

One of the obstacles Malloy will face is that he is not well-known in the rest of the state, Jepsen said.

"I think he's wise to do it as he's doing it," Jepsen said. "He recognizes the need to get better known in other parts of Connecticut."

Joel W. Schweidel of West Hartford also filed papers Tuesday to create a candidate committee to run for governor as an independent, according to the Secretary of the State's office. A telephone message was left for him.