The Republicans for governor: 2 we know, 3 we don’t
All five candidates in this week’s primary for the Republican nomination for governor are against raising taxes and for economizing with the master state employee union contract and pension benefits. While this may not seem like much, state government’s financial situation is so desperate that any governor who refuses a tax increase may be forced into radical measures just to keep the lights on.
So what are the strengths and weaknesses of the Republican candidates?
Mark Boughton: While his idea of eliminating the state income tax in 10 years might as well add a zero or two to that time frame, this is just an obligatory aspiration for Republicans and Boughton is actually the most sober of their candidates, maybe too sober to win the primary despite the endorsement of the party’s state convention.
Boughton’s political sobriety comes from many years of being mayor of a city, Danbury, with mixed demographics and Democratic leanings. He has given Connecticut a rarity: a prosperous city and one with a veteran Republican mayor.
As a former state legislator and teacher, Boughton has far more relevant experience than the other candidates, if understanding of the job one seeks is still to be considered a virtue.
Tim Herbst: His sharp edges seem to have begun alienating his home town, Trumbull, causing him to decline to seek another term as first selectman in the last municipal election so he could seek the governorship this year without the stain of a defeat.
Herbst has set himself apart by posturing for the hard right of the party, exalting gun rights and demanding respect for President Donald Trump as if the president himself doesn’t enjoy disrespecting everyone else.
Herbst says he is a fighter, and, indeed, his mean streak has been on display in the campaign, as when he openly wished to extinguish his cigar in a rival’s eye.
Steve Obsitnik: He is a technology developer who got enough votes at the convention to qualify for the primary but whose message is mainly a hallucination about solving most of Connecticut’s problems by creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. Obsitnik has no record in public life and is probably finishing himself off with his own daffy television commercials.
Bob Stefanowski: Arrogance defines this rich former corporate executive, and not just the arrogance of thinking that his ability to finance his own campaign entitles him to start at the top in politics but also his thinking that calling himself “conservative” in his advertising makes him so when he has no record in public life and hasn’t even voted for 16 years. Stefanowski briefly registered as a Democrat a year ago, apparently so that he might seek that party’s nomination, and then bypassed the Republican convention so he could avoid the vetting of the regular nomination process.
In a recent debate Stefanowski flashed a somewhat sinister grin as he declared that he would use his experience as a business executive to “rip costs out” of the state budget — as if democracy doesn’t require persuasion and consensus. His attitude seems to be “my way or the highway,” the attitude that made Gov. Dannel P. Malloy so unpopular.
David Stemerman: He is another rich self-funder presuming to start at the top. At least Stemerman has studied state government and given the most forthright analysis of the state employee pension problem. But since he also bypassed the convention to avoid vetting and has no record in public life, no one really knows him either.