Report: Bush Campaign Shuns Conn. Governor

Gov. John G. Rowland (search), plagued by a federal corruption investigation and legislative impeachment inquiry, has been replaced as chairman of President Bush's re-election effort in Connecticut, according to a newspaper report.

The governor has also decided not to serve as head of the state delegation to the Republican National Convention (search) this summer, The Hartford Courant reported in Thursday editions.

The circumstances of his replacement as the head of Bush's campaign in the state were not clear.

The political fallout continues for Rowland, a longtime Bush family friend who is facing federal and legislative investigations into gifts he received and alleged contract steering.

Rowland won't even participate as a delegate to the GOP convention, the Courant reported. Lt. Gov. M. Jodi Rell (search) will take over leadership of the Connecticut contingent.

State Republican Chairman Herb Shepardson said Rowland voluntarily stepped aside as a convention delegate.

"He said to me, 'I've been a delegate, and I don't want to take that away from someone,'" Shepardson said.

Seven months ago, Rowland was a rising star in national Republican politics. Now, he faces possible impeachment after admitting that he lied about taking gifts from state contractors and subordinates for his lakeside cottage in Litchfield.

"The governor not going to the convention is the right call," said former state GOP Chairman Richard Foley. "Otherwise, he becomes the story."

Rowland was state chairman of Bob Dole's presidential campaign in 1996 and of Bush's campaign in 2000. He led the Connecticut delegation to the GOP convention both years.

The governor did not attend a fund-raiser for Bush in Greenwich in January, saying he did not want to distract attention from the president.

On Wednesday, he did not attend Vice President Dick Cheney's speech at the Coast Guard Academy graduation or a White House reception for the University of Connecticut men's and women's basketball teams honoring their national championships.

Shepardson said that two Greenwich Republicans — business executive Thomas Foley and former Ambassador Craig Stapleton — are now serving as the co-chairmen of the Bush campaign in Connecticut. He and other Republicans declined to say how Rowland was replaced in that position.

"You have to ask the governor exactly how that transpired," Shepardson said Wednesday.

Rowland's spokesman, Christopher Cooper, said, "There's not much we can say about it." He then referred questions back to Shepardson.

A bipartisan legislative committee is determining whether to recommend Rowland's impeachment. The group has until June 30 to issue its report.