Candidates for governor in stretch run.
Lamont, Stefanowski, Griebel Rally Supporters, Coax Undecideds
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.”
REPUBLICAN Bob Stefanowski visited shops and met people in the Little Poland section of New Britain on Saturday afternoon.
OZ GRIEBEL, the independent candidate for governor, talks with Pamela and Mark Morehouse of Griswold during a campaign stop in Mystic on Saturday.
AMONG THE STOPS Democrat Ned Lamont made on Saturday was a women’s rally in Meriden, where he shook the hands of some supporters.