A can­di­date’s ‘per­fect day’

New Haven Register (Sunday) (New Haven, CT) - - OPINION -

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.

Green­wich Re­pub­li­can

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.

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