Track DVM runs for governor

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Dec 01, 2005


Dr. Scott Merrell
NORWALK, CONN. — He's no stranger to long shots. The 20-year track veterinarian took some flack for remedying an epiglottal entrapment on Alysheba one month before the 1987 Kentucky Derby. Alysheba went on to win the first leg of the Triple Crown despite 17-1 odds.

Though his political chances might not be as stern, Scott Merrell, DVM, is trying to upset a popular incumbent of his own party for governor of Connecticut.

"There are a lot of things in life that people don't think you can do. But if you have the determination and put your mind to it, then you only know when you do it," he says.

Seated Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell ascended to the Governor's office in 2004 after a scandal forced Gov. John Rowland to resign, and she's enjoyed a high approval rating since.

But Merrell, 48, says he's not intimidated by her popularity. He uses the 1992 presidential election as an analogy for his impending battle, when a virtually unknown Southern governor upset an incumbent president despite an approval rating near 90 percent a year prior to the election.

"A year out, it's anyone's race, and I think I've got the issue," he says. "It just takes one person with determination to stand up and fight all the little special interest groups, who apparently don't care where the money comes from to fund their projects."

The issue he's got is property tax reform. Merrell says ever-increasing, uncapped property taxes are crippling property owners and forcing many to sell the homes they've lived in for more than 30 years. His single-issue grassroots campaign ignited when a woman on his street was forced to sell a home she lived in since 1969. Her tax burden last year was $33,000, and her re-evaluated tax for this year was estimated at $71,000 with more increases on the way, he says.

Merrell has a similar plight. His property taxes were $11,500 when he bought his house 15 years ago. This year, he will pay $41,000 on a house that banks appraised for less than $1 million. He expects to pay $65,000 when the final phase of the re-evaluation process triggers in 2007.

"No one has the right to price you out of your own house," Merrell says.

He is touting tax caps similar to those in California's Proposition 13 as a solution. Since 1978, California has assessed property taxes at 1 percent of sale price, and increases are capped at 2 percent. Merrell hopes to get an endorsement from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to underscore his vision, and he is planning to court veterinary associations, too, beginning with the American Association for Equine Practitioners.

Merrell must acquire about 8,000 signatures of registered Republicans in the state to earn a spot on the ballot. He has taken a leave from his equine racetrack practice in Southern California to campaign, and he has high hopes just 45 days into the process.

"When I sit down and tell people why I am running, honestly, 100 percent of them want to vote for me," he says.