Herbst has formed an exploratory committee for statewide office under the rules, but, like Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, he is primarily focused on running for the state's top political post.
In his take-no-prisoners approach, Herbst does not parse words in saying that Democrats will be gunning for him in 2018 in the same way as they tried unsuccessfully to knock him out of the Trumbull first selectman's seat in 2015.
"I don't have patience for the Hartford ballet under the Gold Dome," Herbst said in an interview Friday. "That is not how I roll. I am not afraid to shake things up, and I'm not afraid to take on special interests to do what's right. There are a lot of special interests who will not want me to win statewide office. I'm not just talking about unions. I'm talking about lobbyists, the Hartford insiders, the people who curry favor. They're not going to like me. That I can assure you."
Regarding Democrats, he added, "They're going to throw the kitchen sink at us in 2018. I think I have the intestinal fortitude and political will to take those punches and take on the Hartford insiders and go up there and drain the swamp."
At 36, Herbst has already run once for statewide office – losing narrowly in 2014 against longtime Democratic state treasurer Denise Nappier. Herbst lost by fewer than 19,000 votes out of more than 1 million cast.
An outspoken Republican, Herbst formed a political action committee to raise money against Democrats in the 2016 elections. He targeted and helped defeat state Rep. David Alexander of Enfield, a former Trinity College graduate who had battled against Alexander in a student body election 15 years earlier.
Malloy has not announced yet whether he will run for a third term, but Herbst continued to criticize the governor whom he has described as "toxic" and "radioactive" in the past. He said Malloy was one of the key reasons Republicans gained 8 seats in the House of Representatives and three seats in the state Senate in the November elections.
The Connecticut Democratic Party has repeatedly tangled with Herbst, sending out emailed comments against him and his tenure in Trumbull.
"We are absolutely shocked that, after years of trying to use his office as first selectman as a political steppingstone, Connecticut's most ambitious junior Republican is once again gunning for higher office," said Michael Mandell, executive director of the state Democratic Party. "We can't wait to find out which statewide office he is running for this time."
Herbst also sharply criticized Democrat Dan Drew, the Middletown mayor who has also opened an exploratory committee for governor. Drew was criticized for comments that he made that the tax system can be improved for the middle class, but he said they were not a swipe at Malloy.
"When it comes to the failed policies of the last six years, Dan Drew is Dan Malloy on steroids" Herbst said. "Dan is very far left. He basically took a shot at Dan Malloy. ... It tells me that Dan [Drew] is taking a very calculated risk. He's going hard left because he realizes that many primary voters are liberal."
Drew burst out laughing when told that he was compared to Malloy on steroids.
"Instead of engaging in a back and forth with a Republican candidate, my goal here has been and will continue to be to talk about what turns Connecticut's economy around and what has turned Middletown's economy around," Drew responded. "We have a AAA bond rating, which Trumbull does not have, by the way. I'm not really interested in engaging in a tit-for-tat with Tim or any other Republican or any other candidate."