Welcome to the 2022 governor’s race
The COVID Era simultaneously puts us through experiences we’ve never had before and makes daily life often feel like reruns. So the news Bob Stefanowski is seeking to become governor felt about as surprising as a November headline that leaves are dropping from Connecticut’s trees.
Even Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont acknowledged Stefanowski has been running for the past five years. That’s not a shot at the 2018 Republican candidate, who was wise to maintain a steady drumbeat reminding voters of his presence. When Republican Tom Foley returned for a rematch in 2014 after losing the governor’s race to Democrat Dannel Malloy in 2010, he seemed to be coming out of hibernation from the intervening four years.
That’s not the case with Stefanowski. He has been making stump speeches via email blasts, op-eds and volunteer appearances since Lamont won the last campaign with 49.4 percent of the vote to Stefanowski’s 46.2. The x-factor that year was the late Oz Griebel, who claimed nearly 4 percent as an independent. But it’s doubtful those votes would have tilted toward Stefanowski had the moderate Griebel stayed off the ballot.
Stefanowski emerged four years ago from a crowded field. Even by the time it was winnowed down to the primary, GOP hopefuls also included former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, businessmen Stephen Obsitnik and David Stemerman, and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who had the GOP’s endorsement and is now part of the Lamont administration as the state’s commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services.
Stefanowski is again portraying himself as a political outsider, if that’s really possible after seeking the highest office in the state.
Despite holding local offices in his hometown of Greenwich, Lamont arrived in Hartford as something of an outsider as well. He didn’t speak Capitolese and got crushed in his early efforts to revive tolls.
Then he became a different governor, seizing executive privileges to act decisively to navigate constituents through this once-a-century crisis. He will always deserve credit for not hesitating in the face of a pandemic that claimed thousands of lives.
For those who prefer insiders, Stefanowski’s most formidable current rival for the nomination is former state House of Representatives minority leader Themis Klarides. Like Stefanowski, Klarides hails from Madison. Other names have emerged as well, including Republicans Timothy Elgin of Westport and former marketing executive Susan Patricelli Regan of Granby, as well as Independent Ernestine Holloway.
Too much of the race to come will be about money. It shouldn’t. All of the candidates should clearly define their platforms. Four years ago, Stefanowski resisting citing specifics (aside from a pie-in-sky pledge to eliminate the state income tax). In recent months, he has accused Lamont of overreach concerning the state’s pandemic response.
“People in Connecticut are not asking for a lot,” Stefanowski said in declaring his 2022 intentions.
We do ask for a few things from our gubernatorial candidates: Run a clean race. Stick to the issues. Make those issues clear, and forward-looking. And remember you share a common love of Connecticut.
Too much of the race to come will be about money. It shouldn’t. All of the candidates should clearly define their platforms.