Politically, a dead man walking?
It felt like a nice, friendly group-therapy session for the Connecticut Republican Party. But someone had to die.
In an under-attended dinner aimed at giving Bob Stefanowski some more money for the TV ads that worked so spectacularly, so shockingly, so stunningly that he has still barely recovered from that unlikely primary victory over four other candidates on Aug. 14, about 360 Republicans gathered in a ballroom at the Stamford Marriott the other night.
More about Aug. 14 a little later.
The seats ranged in price from $100 to $10,000, with Big Bob the beneficiary of the cheerleading in the state’s new political landscape. What could the rankand-file do? Their world has been thrown on its axis. But just because the weakest candidate won the primary, doesn’t mean they can lose the sure bet of the governor’s office in 2018, does it?
Well, that’s why they hold elections.
So what if their timehonored nomination system, with various hopefuls for governor supplicating before town committees and courting hundreds of delegates for support in advance of the May convention, has been thoroughly repudiated?
Who cares if a segment of Republicans who have been toiling for years in various elective offices, working for the party, biding their time, were thrown aside for a candidate who didn’t even vote during most of this century, let alone register as a Republican?
Stefanowski’s brilliant strategy, standing the process on its head, front-loaded his campaign with TV ads in January. He didn’t have to do anything more than throw a nice party else in Foxwoods on the first night of the convention. The commercials solidified name recognition, and his handlers have excelled in keeping him from reporters. The next debate is Oct. 18.
I can count on one hand and a few fingers the number of times since the convention that Stefanowski has held events in which the Connecticut news media, and therefore you, seething reader, were invited. Democrat Ned Lamont has had more than 100, taking questions from skeptical reporters, announcing things he stands for, bringing his campaign to the public square for scrutiny.
But enough about Ned, let’s go back to the 40th Annual Prescott Bush Dinner, attended by dozens of people I have known, appreciated and covered for decades. Many are wondering if the whole convention process should be scrapped. Maybe the conventions should be held earlier, so those participating in public financing can have a chance against a so-called self-funder like Stefanowski.
What about killing the convention process entirely, avoiding the floor fights, and going to a direct primary? How about ending public financing for the governor’s race? It’s all up to the General Assembly and the next governor in this dangerous age of partisan politics.
No one in the practically all-white crowd was talking about the historic Kavanaugh hearing that was just finishing up before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where a former Yale frat-boy cried, blamed a left-wing conspiracy for his drinking history, then asked a senator if she ever passed out from alcohol.
In fact, Connecticut Republicans were acting like that hoped Washington was on another planet, instead of the source of the events that could threaten their hoped-for table run for 2018: the governor, the state House and Senate. House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, accepted the annual Prescott Bush Award — named for the father of a president and the grandfather of another — and predicted that if the GOP doesn’t win legislative majorities, Stefanowski would have “a miserable four years.”
The keynote speaker was Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, a former corporate guy — shades of Big Bob! —who pitched his state’s success story. For a chuckle at the expense of J.R. Romano, the hard-working, catherding GOP state chairman, Ricketts inadvertently referred to him as “R.J.” a couple times.
Ricketts, whose state has a unicameral Legislature, with lawmakers referred to as senators, painted a rosy picture of budget cutting and running the state like a business. His pep talk, implying what happened there can occur in Connecticut with GOP leadership, got a standing ovation.
Ricketts, the son of the founder of TD Ameritrade, whose family also owns the Chicago Cubs, was lessknown to the crowd for his recent claim to infamy. On Aug. 14, the day of Stefanowski’s primary victory, Nebraska executed a man with a lethal injection, rather than letting him age away, anonymously, behind bars.
Previously, Ricketts vetoed a repeal of the death penalty. The Legislature overrode the veto. Ricketts invested a couple hundred thousand dollars to support a referendum that overturned the repeal. So if Big Bob is elected and the General Assembly flips, does that mean the Connecticut GOP brings back the death penalty?