A candidate’s ‘perfect day’
Ned Lamont, D: On a day off the campaign trail, Lamont, 64, would start with a 30-mile bike ride with his wife, Ann, and three children.
“I’d come back, have a nice glass of wine, get on the grill and make a nice steak — sorry vegetarians — with a little sauce on it, put my feet up and be ready to hit the ground the next day.”
He says riding and playing some piano “keeps me sane.” He’s been playing keyboards since his days in the Flower Pot, a band of eighth-graders that played the likes of “Wild Thing” and “The House of the Rising Sun” at high school dances. These days, he leans toward “a little blues, a little boogie, a little free form.”
“I have a ball, it’s cheaper than a psychiatrist.”
David Stemerman, R: Stemerman, who answers questions quickly, doesn’t pause at this one either.
“It’s very straightforward. It would be a day with my family,” he says. “We have wonderful time just being together. Usually we like to be outdoors. It can be on the water. It can be throwing a ball.”
They also like to invite friends to join them, as “my wife created a home where everyone wants to come over.”
He doesn’t hesitate to plan the day’s menu, either: Pizza, steak, french fries and ice cream.
“Put those things together and it’s a great meal.” Stemerman finally pauses, apparently contemplating the balance on his plate.
“And I’ll have a little salad,” he adds.
Joe Ganim, D: For Ganim, the “perfect day” mostly involves family. Even time working out would be spent with his sons.
Campaign season has made it difficult for him to join his seven brothers and sisters at a “default Sunday dinner at my mom’s.”
“Then there’s the stupid stuff. I’ll look for something brainless on TV. I might get immersed in national news” or veer toward binge-watching reruns of “Seinfeld” or a show he watched while growing up.
Though he couldn’t summon the name of it, Ganim, 58, keeps an inspirational book on his nightstand.
“It’s about positive energy. It’s almost like poetry, It forces you to reflect on the power of thoughts and the positive. It’s indirectly spiritual. I find that inspiring.”
Steve Obsitnik, R: Even on a day off, Obsitnik gets up at 6:15 a.m. and heads for the Westport YMCA for a 90-minute workout before picking up food to prepare for later that day (“I do most of the cooking,” he says, somewhat sheepishly).
“Then I’d play with our dog, Daisy, and rummage everyone (his wife, Suzanne, and their two children) out of bed.” After catching up on house chores, they would head out on their Boston Whaler for tubing before tackling laundry. In late afternoon, Obsitnik would make dinner, perhaps Peking chicken or scallion pancakes, as he prefers Asian cooking.
“Then my daughters will find a screen and I would read a book or talk to my wife.”
He favors reading to television (“I watched ‘House of Cards,’ but couldn’t watch it again,” he says, referencing lead Kevin Spacey’s scandal). His book of choice would be a biography, though his wife “manages my fiction to keep my mind limber.”
Mark Boughton, R: Boughton would start his day at Richter Park golf course in Danbury, and try to watch NASCAR racing, which he acknowledges is unusual for someone from the Northeast (“It’s from going to Danbury Racearena every Saturday night”).
“And I love going to auto shows. I don’t tinker,” says Boughton, 54. “I’m a very bad tinkerer. I once had on a ’67 Mustang and it was a disaster.”
After lunch, Boughton would take his dog for a walk, “maybe take a nap” and do some reading (“no budgetary stuff”). His preference is non-fiction. He recently read a book about the Danbury Fair and Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” (“for the third time”).
At days end, his TV viewing might include Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War.” And though he’s fallen behind on a certain favorite show, he promises his followers he will continue to “live Tweet ‘Walking Dead’ as governor.”
Tim Herbst, R: For a guy who usually gets up at 4:30 a.m., sleeping in means awakening at 7:30 a.m.
He’d start the day at the gym, then indulge in some golf, which he hasn’t been able to play since joining the crowd in the campaign trail. The afternoon might be spent on the water, or at the beach, but his perfect day would also include a Dave Matthews Band concert.
Other activities might include a run, or just enjoying solitude in his backyard.
His favorite TV show is “The Sopranos” “because I like the unpredictability of the outcomes.”
Herbst also leans toward historical biographies, sometimes seeking unexpected choices. He read Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “What Happened” about the last presidential election because “I wanted to read her perspective on things.”
Bob Stefanowski, R: Given the time crunch while campaigning, Stefanowski sees a perfect day as time spent with his wife and three daughters.
“Somewhere without a cellphone. On a beach,” he says. As someone who describes himself as “very competitive,” Stefanowski enjoyed the experience of running in three marathons, including London and New York.
For election season, he revived a practice from his training days. He maintains a daily diary, which he plans to continue in office. He writes about “what I’m learning, what I’m observing. The peaks and valleys.
“When you have a bad day I look back two weeks ago at a good day.”
We concluded our conversations with the seven Connecticut gubernatorial candidates by asking them to describe how they would spend their “perfect day” if granted a 24-hour break from campaigning, work and governance. What would they eat? What would they binge-watch? What do they like to read?
The way they responded to the invitation was as revealing as the answers.
David Stemerman started to describe his perfect dinner meal by compartmentalizing it into “three components.” When we teased that he divides everything into threes, he added a fourth to his menu of steak, french fries and pizza — ice cream. Then he seemed to consider his cholesterol and put some salad on the imaginary plate.
Madison resident Bob Stefanowski, a Republican business executive, built a reputation among journalists for dodging questions and skipping debates. He resisted meetings with editorial boards, so our session was a fresh experience for him. When he described the benefits of writing a diary, an editor filled in the word “therapeutic” because Stefanowski had used it several times to characterize our exchange.
Ned Lamont, a Greenwich Democrat, played to his audience by jesting that his perfect day would be spent with the Hearst Media Group Editorial Board.
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, who faces Lamont in Tuesday’s primary, was true to his habit of looking for opportunities to find common ground. When we pressed for details about his TV habits, his response was “how about yourself?”
Former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst instantly sought clarification, asking “Is it a day off?” We didn’t ask for his perfect day in office.
Most of the candidates welcomed a day to spend with their wife and children, creating a distinction from the unmarried candidates: Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and Ganim (who are divorced) and Herbst. Ganim nevertheless envisioned a day with his sons, his seven brothers and sisters and his mother.
Boughton was the only candidate who seemed to understand the concept of rest, as he included a possible nap in his itinerary. Westport Republican Steve Obsitnik didn’t sleep in and planned a day cooking for his family.
These are not the matters that will determine our next governor, but we wanted to humanize the seven men who each feel they hold the compass that will lead state residents to safer ground.
Connecticut residents may never have a perfect day, but they deserve the candidate who will provide them with better days.
Gubernatorial candidates pointed to watching “Seinfeld” (top) and “Sopranos” reruns (bottom) and reading as pastimes they would favor on a day to unwind.