They're both entrepreneurial Greenwich businessmen. They're both politically connected, though neither has held statewide elective office.
And Democrat Ned Lamont and Republican Tom Foley have something else important in common, too: They're both very wealthy and, potentially, willing to pour some of that wealth into becoming Connecticut's next governor.
Foley's announcement last week that he is seeking the GOP nomination to replace Gov. M. Jodi Rell made him the newest entrant into a growing field of contenders. They already include Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele, a fellow Republican; and Democratic former House Speaker James Amann.
Foley said after his announcement Thursday that he "probably won't" participate in Connecticut's public campaign financing program, in which candidates curtail their fund-raising in return for state grants to help bolster their campaign.
That leaves open the door for Foley, a former U.S. ambassador to Ireland, to spend and raise as much money as he wishes _ both in a potential party primary and, if he were to win that, in a general election against a Democrat.
Although Lamont hasn't officially said whether he will run for governor, he has formed an exploratory committee. He has said he would accept only small donations to "honor the spirit" of campaign finance reform, but has not said whether he supplement them with his own money.
In 2006, he shelled out $16 million to challenge Sen. Joe Lieberman, defeating the incumbent in the party primary before losing to the Democrat-turned-independent Lieberman in the general election.
"In my mind, it's going to be money that's the key factor in this race for governor," said Christopher Kukk, an associate professor of political science at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.
"I'm a firm believer that money is the mother's milk of American politics, and I think you'll definitely see this in the very wealthy state of Connecticut," he said. "Hands down, the wealthy person has the advantage of getting their name out in many, many ways."
And the money is likely to come from outside of Connecticut, too. The Democratic Governors Association has said Connecticut will be one of its top priorities in the 2010 elections after losing New Jersey and Virginia to Republicans this year.
Many of Foley's and Lamont's declared and potential challengers have said they will follow the limits of Connecticut's public finance program, including Amann and Fedele.
The program, known as the Citizens Election Program, was established in 2005 and is funded by the state's sale of unclaimed and abandoned property. Autumn of 2008 was the first time candidates for state office could qualify and receive grants.
But in August, a federal judge ruled that the state's program is unconstitutional and said it discriminates against minor party political candidates. The judge agreed to let the program remain in force as the state challenges his ruling before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Kukk said that since many people are not versed in the intricacies of campaign finance reform, they will assume every candidate has connections to raise money if they want to do so.
They'll remember the ones who spend money to spread their message _ not those who try to use an image of genteel poverty to appeal to voters' sympathy for the underdog, he said.
"With a very popular incumbent leaving office, it's very wide open and anybody's game, so you have people in power in either party who think they're in a position to fill that. No one's seen as the underdog," Kukk said.
Other potential GOP contenders for the gubernatorial race include state House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero Jr. and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney.
In addition to Lamont and Amann, prospective candidates on the Democratic side include former Stamford Mayor Dannell Malloy, Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, state Sen. Gary LeBeau and Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi.
Mike McGarry, chairman of the Hartford Republican Town Committee and a member of the party's state central committee, said he thinks a high-stakes race will energize voters of all parties.
"I think it's dramatic. Even if there are primaries, that's good for the parties because it brings everybody out of the woodwork," he said. "We've got fresh faces on both sides _ isn't that amazing?"