Gender gap plays role in race for governor
Republican Bob Stefanowski and Democrat Ned Lamont are waging an asymmetrical fight for the votes of women in Connecticut’s race for governor, one in which Republicans are trying to keep voters tightly focused on the state economy and Democrats are making broader appeals over state and national issues.
Female voters, who are more numerous and tend to turn out at higher rates than men, are a prized demographic in every election cycle, but potentially more so at a time when Washington is riven over the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a conservative seen as hostile to abortion rights and accused of several long-ago sexual assaults.
Buoyed by a new Quinnipiac University poll that shows him with a huge advantage among women, Lamont and his running mate, Susan Bysiewicz, held a news conference Wednesday to promote what they called “a strategic agenda to empower, support and provide equal opportunity to woman in every facet of their lives.”
Lamont and Bysiewicz reiterated their support for a paid family and medical leave program that stalled in the General Assembly, a $15 minimum wage and greater access to child care. They also called for preserving funding for sexual assault and domestic violence services and extending the criminal statute of limitations for sexual assaults.
“We’ve got to make sure that businesses and government accommodate the changing work place and make sure it’s easier for women to work and also to take care of things at home, the same thing for the fathers,” Lamont said during the event, which took place at an information technology company in Glastonbury.
On Tuesday night, Stefanowski attended a more casual event held by Connecticut Women for Change, a coalition organized late in the campaign season to build support among women for Stefanowski, or at least to discourage defections from the GOP over the Kavanaugh nomination and his potential influence on abortion rights.
Over cocktails at Lenny and Joe’s Fish Tale, a restaurant on Long Wharf in New Haven, the Kavanaugh confirmation didn’t seem to come up.
“It’s not part of the conversation,” said Leora Levy, a Republican National Committee member and organizer of the coalition. “It has no part in the conversation, and it is only the people who want to distract, who have no message, no positive message of their own, who are trying to make it a part of the conversation. We are laserfocused on fixing Connecticut, period.”
Her message to any woman who leaves the GOP over Kavanaugh is simple: “I’m telling them they have made a mistake. Kavanaugh doesn’t affect their lives. Kavanaugh, like every person, whether male or female, is entitled to the presumption of innocence.”
Stefanowski, who also regularly pronounces his campaign as being “laserfocused” on financial issues, declined to say during a recent debate before the confirmation if Kavanaugh deserved a place on the court.
“I’m going to pass on that,” Stefanowski said. “It’s a federal issue.”
Stefanowski mingled and briefly addressed the audience, which included old friends from North Haven where he and his wife, Amy, another leader of the coalition, both grew up. Stefanowski, whose most recent private-sector job was chief executive officer of DFC Global, which offers payday loans and other alternative financial services, told them he always has included women on his leadership teams.
“I have always valued diversity,” Stefanowski said. “Every one of my management teams over the years, I’ve had 50 percent diversity. I do that for a reason. I want to surround myself with people who have different opinions. I want to solicit that opinion. If I hang around with people that are like me, I’m not going to learn a lot.”
Among women likely to vote, Stefanowski trailed Lamont by 22 percentage points. His advantage among men was only five points.
Lamont has tried to build on the gender gap by campaigning frequently with Bysiewicz, a former secretary of the state. She offers constant reminders that Stefanowski’s running mate is Joe Markley, a conservative state senator.
“We want to make sure that women have access to health care, to reproductive health care and to birth control,” Bysiewicz said Wednesday. “And you can count on Ned and I to stand up and defend Connecticut’s Roe v. Wade law.”