Can­di­dates for gov­er­nor in stretch run.

La­mont, Ste­fanowski, Griebel Rally Sup­port­ers, Coax Un­de­cid­eds

Hartford Courant (Sunday) - - Front Page - By NEIL VIGDOR and DANIELA ALTIMARI nvig­dor@courant.com

It’s clos­ing time for Ned La­mont, Bob Ste­fanowski and Oz Griebel. From Hart­ford and New Haven to the Val­ley and the Gold Coast, the top con­tenders for gov­er­nor hus­tled for votes on the fi­nal Satur­day of a nail-biter elec­tion with im­pli­ca­tions for both na­tional par­ties.

The can­di­dates slogged through wind and rain, vis­it­ing phone banks and ral­lies, as they tried to sway a dwin­dling num­ber of un­de­cided vot­ers in a race that prog­nos­ti­ca­tors moved back into the toss-up cat­e­gory within the past week.

Ac­cord­ing to the Sec­re­tary of the State’s of­fice, more than 300,000 new vot­ers have reg­is­tered in Con­necti­cut since the 2016 elec­tion, push­ing the to­tal num­ber of vot­ers to more than 2.1 mil­lion — a record.

The con­test had been tilt­ing to­ward La­mont, a Demo­crat who led his Repub­li­can ri­val, Ste­fanowski, by 13 points in the weeks im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing their pri­mary vic­to­ries in Au­gust.

But the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions mag­nate’s lead has eroded this fall, with both sides spend­ing mil­lions of dol­lars on tele­vi­sion ad­ver­tis­ing, La­mont try­ing to tie Ste­fanowski to Don­ald Trump and Ste­fanowski por­tray­ing La­mont as a clone of un­pop­u­lar Gov. Dan­nel P. Mal­loy.

Vis­it­ing a Hart­ford phone bank run by the Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees In­ter­na­tional Union, which has en­dorsed him, La­mont painted a dire pic­ture of Con­necti­cut un­der the Repub­li­cans.

“If the Repub­li­cans win, they will jack up your prop­erty taxes and fire a lot of peo­ple and hurt our schools,” he said. “We’re not go­ing to let it hap­pen.”

La­mont was joined by for­mer Hart­ford City

Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Shawn Wooden, the Demo­cratic can­di­date for state trea­surer, Mayor Luke Bronin and U.S. Sen. Chris Mur­phy, who is a pro­hib­i­tive fa­vorite to win re-elec­tion.

Mur­phy said Trump and Ste­fanowski are cut from the same cloth.

“I’m ready to win with Ned La­mont,” Mur­phy said. “I’m ready to stand up for all of you.”

At a Repub­li­can blitz event in Green­wich, which is La­mont’s home­town, Ste­fanowski told lo­cal Repub­li­cans that Democrats are step­ping up their at­tacks on him as he keeps ris­ing in the polls.

“They are des­per­ate,” Ste­fanowski said from a windswept band­stand as leaves and bub­bles from a bub­ble ma­chine floated around him. “They see it slip­ping away. They’re used to be­ing in con­trol.”

The first pe­ti­tion can­di­date in Con­necti­cut his­tory to win a ma­jor party nom­i­na­tion, Ste­fanowski has cam­paigned on phas­ing out the state in­come, cor­po­rate and busi­ness en­tity taxes. The for­mer UBS and Gen­eral Elec­tric ex­ec­u­tive, a Madi­son res­i­dent, wants to im­me­di­ately elim­i­nate the es­tate and gift taxes, and to pri­va­tize the state De­part­ment of Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles.

In ad­di­tion to his wife, Amy Ste­fanowski, and the cou­ple’s three daugh­ters, the can­di­date’s en­tourage in­cluded Jim Grasso, the son of the late Demo­cratic Gov. Ella Grasso, who has en­dorsed the Repub­li­can.

“This is the last chance Con­necti­cut has,” Grasso, a reg­is­tered Demo­crat from Columbia, told The Courant. “If [my mom] was alive to­day, there’s no doubt that she would be here to­day cam­paign­ing for Bob.”

With the state’s un­af­fil­i­ated vot­ers the big­gest prize in the dead­locked gov­er­nor’s race, Ste­fanowski is mak­ing a spe­cial ef­fort to at­tract sup­port from this vot­ing bloc.

Marc Esque­nazi, an un­af­fil­i­ated voter, handed his son, Dean, 6, to Ste­fanowski to hold.

“I’m sure it’s a tough race,” Esque­nazi said. “This state has been run into the ground, and it has so much po­ten­tial.”

In­de­pen­dent can­di­date Oz Griebel spent the day in eastern Con­necti­cut, vis­it­ing a farm­ers mar­ket in

Mys­tic, a cof­fee shop in New Lon­don and a restau­rant in Put­nam, among other stops.

In Mys­tic, he en­coun­tered Marie Tyler Wi­ley, a 58-year-old Real­tor who wanted to know what sets Griebel apart from his two ma­jor party op­po­nents.

“I’m straight­for­ward, I’m hon­est and I’m trans­par­ent,” Griebel told her. “I’ve dis­closed my in­come taxes, I voted ev­ery year and I’ve given you straight an­swer on how we’re go­ing to at­tack the un­funded li­a­bil­ity is­sue and the $4.6 bil­lion op­er­at­ing deficit.”

Wi­ley said she hadn’t paid much at­ten­tion to the gov­er­nor’s race be­cause she’s been very busy with work but plans to study the can­di­dates po­si­tions over the next two days.

She’s not a La­mont fan and was lean­ing to­ward Griebel even be­fore chat­ting with him. Then she learned that his chil­dren played foot­ball at North­west Catholic High School in West Hart­ford, where her brother coached and that seemed to seal the deal.

“He had been on my list any­way,” Wi­ley said. “He’s a straight shooter.”

Alan Beauch­esne of Thomp­son, 69, is a reg­is­tered Demo­crat, but he’s strongly con­sid­er­ing Griebel.

“I’m vot­ing can­di­date, not party,” he said. “I’m still un­de­cided, but he may be what we need.”

La­mont paid close at­ten­tion to the cities, which are crit­i­cal to Democrats if they are go­ing to hold onto the gov­er­nor’s of­fice. In New Haven, he at­tended a rally at Bethel AME Church, where state Sen. Gary Win­field gave him a rous­ing en­dorse­ment.

“There are peo­ple who aren’t pay­ing at­ten­tion,” Win­field said. “There are peo­ple who aren’t ex­cited. There are peo­ple who are go­ing to say to you, ‘This Ned guy, I don’t know.’ I want you to tell them Ned is our guy.”

Mur­murs of ap­proval rip­pled through the crowd. “And if we want things to hap­pen, we need our guy sitting at the top.”

Ty­isha Walker-My­ers, the pres­i­dent of New Haven’s board of alders, cast the elec­tion in gen­er­a­tional terms.

“It’s not about us. It’s about our chil­dren, our grand­chil­dren,” she said. “I don’t want to wake up and feel the way I did when Don­ald Trump won. ... We have to do ev­ery­thing we can to make sure we don’t wake up Wed­nes­day with that feel­ing.”

The suit that Bob Ste­fanowski was wear­ing ear­lier in the day in Green­wich and dur­ing a tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ance on Fox News Chan­nel with Neil Cavuto was off by the time his cam­paign reached the Nau­gatuck Val­ley. It was re­placed by khakis and a sweater.

The in­dus­trial spine of the state be­tween Water­bury and Bridge­port was car­ried by Don­ald Trump in 2016.

“I like Trump’s eco­nomic pol­icy,” Ste­fanowski told The Courant. “We could use some of that in Con­necti­cut.”

Ste­fanowski said he doesn’t con­done ev­ery­thing Trump does, how­ever.

“I don’t like the rhetoric,” Ste­fanowski said, adding that as the father of three daugh­ters, he’s trou­bled by Trump’s com­ments to­ward women.

Ste­fanowski vis­ited The Sta­tion restau­rant, an up­scale sports bar in the con­verted train sta­tion in Nau­gatuck, where long­time Shel­ton Mayor Mark Lau­retti hosted a $100 per per­son fundraiser for the GOP con­tender.

Lau­retti threw his sup­port to Ste­fanoski af­ter be­ing un­able to qual­ify for the party’s gu­ber­na­to­rial pri­mary.

“All pol­i­tics aside, the guy from Green­wich, he doesn’t know what it’s like to be us,” Lau­retti said of La­mont. “He can only talk about it.”

MICHAEL MCANDREWS | SPE­CIAL TO THE COURANT

REPUB­LI­CAN Bob Ste­fanowski vis­ited shops and met peo­ple in the Lit­tle Poland sec­tion of New Bri­tain on Satur­day af­ter­noon.

ME­LANIE STENGEL | SPE­CIAL TO THE COURANT

OZ GRIEBEL, the in­de­pen­dent can­di­date for gov­er­nor, talks with Pamela and Mark Morehouse of Gris­wold dur­ing a cam­paign stop in Mys­tic on Satur­day.

MICHAEL MCANDREWS | SPE­CIAL TO THE COURANT

AMONG THE STOPS Demo­crat Ned La­mont made on Satur­day was a women’s rally in Meri­den, where he shook the hands of some sup­port­ers.

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