A Tro­jan Horse fades in stretch

The Norwalk Hour - - OPINION - Ken Dixon, po­lit­i­cal edi­tor and colum­nist, can be reached at 203-842-2547 or at kdixon@ct­post.com. Visit him at twit­ter.com/KenDixonCT and on Face­book at kendixonct.hearst.

Give lots of credit to Con­necti­cut Repub­li­cans for snatch­ing de­feat from the jaws of vic­tory in this tat­tered piñata called the gover­nor’s race.

All they had to do was nom­i­nate some­one with a pulse, say the pleas­an­te­nough, ar­tic­u­late and in­formed Dan­bury Mayor Mark Boughton, who won their erst­while en­dorse­ment at the May party con­ven­tion.

That was, of course, be­fore Bob Ste­fanowski made the tra­di­tional nom­i­nat­ing process ob­so­lete by front-load­ing a cou­ple mil­lion bucks which he “loaned” to his cam­paign. It would have been so much eas­ier to pay him­self back if he had won and had some­thing to, you know, of­fer.

Or the GOP could have anointed Tim Herbst, the for­mer Trum­bull first select­man who would have turned Ned La­m­ont into a chalk out­line on any num­ber of de­bate stages this fall.

Tech en­tre­pre­neur Steve Ob­sit­nik of West­port or David Ste­mer­man, the for­mer hedge fund mogul of Greenwich, also could have been La­m­ont’s worst night­mare.

But no.

A whop­ping 42,000 Repub­li­cans — re­mem­ber that num­ber — de­cided on Ste­fanowski in the five-way pri­mary. They re­mem­bered his name af­ter the long win­ter-into-spring plethora of Pavlo­vian TV ads. Ste­fanowski, an­other one of those cor­po­rate suits for whom GOP vot­ers have an affin­ity, was a hor­ri­ble can­di­date.

At least he seemed hor­ri­ble, af­ter his cam­paign man­ager, a guy named Patrick True­man, the man Or the GOP could have anointed Tim Herbst, the for­mer Trum­bull first select­man who would have turned Ned La­m­ont into a chalk out­line on any num­ber of de­bate stages this fall. who turned a Tro­jan horse into a piñata, de­cided to keep his can­di­date tightly reined.

True­man and Ste­fanowski, de­cided that ac­tual ques­tions were un­de­sir­able, es­pe­cially when asked by ag­gres­sive re­porters who knew the prob­lems of the state bet­ter than the can­di­date and his han­dlers, and could have made Big Bob very un­com­fort­able in pub­lic.

If there was any­thing Trumpian about Ste­fanowski, be­sides of course his fawn­ing over the pres­i­dent, it was an abil­ity to steer away from any­thing in the way of ac­tual pol­icy pro­pos­als.

So Ste­fanowski was kept in a bell jar, with vir­tu­ally no news con­fer­ences beyond five-minute snip­pets at the few events for which Big Bob came out of hid­ing. At those oc­ca­sions and at de­bates, he used as a shield the creaky sup­ply-side, trickle-down the­ory that has never proven eco­nom­i­cally true or vi­able, as a rea­son for cutting taxes.

Con­necti­cut work­ers are re­ally suf­fer­ing from 10 years of stag­nant wages fol­low­ing the fi­asco of the mort­gage-backed-se­cu­ri­ties Ponzi scheme that some­how sent no bankers to prison. Mean­while, vot­ers’ unar­tic­u­lated dis­like of the eco­nomic land­scape some­how trans­ferred into hate for Dan Mal­loy, who only re­duced over­all state spend­ing, in­vested bil­lions in the un­der-funded state pen­sion plans and mas­sively changed the ben­e­fits of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of state work­ers.

Iron­i­cally, the ex­tra time re­porters spent not cov­er­ing Ste­fanowski’s day-to­day non-events was oc­cu­pied in cov­er­ing the La­m­ont cam­paign and en­gag­ing in deeper ques­tions on what he would do if elected. Elec­tion Day came and we had a pretty clear pic­ture of what La­m­ont would of­fer vot­ers.

Per­son­ally, Ste­fanowski’s tac­tics gave me time to thor­oughly look into his busi­ness back­ground: the prof­its he made on toll roads; the high-in­ter­est, short-term loan com­pany that kept sign­ing up low­in­come cus­tomers even af­ter Ste­fanowski was hired to sup­pos­edly stop the tac­tics and clean them up; the com­plaints his ex­ec­u­tives and lob­by­ists made to Hawai­ian law­mak­ers that 36-per­cent profit was not high enough for their pay­day loan op­er­a­tions.

Ste­fanowski was a Tro­jan Horse. What was in there be­sides a feel good “cut taxes” mes­sage and a weak at­tempt to link La­m­ont to the ex­co­ri­ated Mal­loy? We won’t find out be­cause the horse turned out to be a piñata, spilling out the pub­lic pol­icy candy af­ter his can­di­dacy was bro­ken up by vot­ers.

The an­ti­cli­max was Elec­tion Night, shortly be­fore the polls closed, when one of Big Bob’s un­der­lings tried to stop a Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia Group re­porter and pho­tog­ra­pher from the oth­er­wise pub­lic event in a Rocky Hill ho­tel. They must have known by then that the blue wave was out on the hori­zon, head­ing their way.

It was the fi­nal in­ef­fec­tive mo­ment from a neo­phyte can­di­date who, if he had started out on the Madi­son school board — I hear the town has a AAA bond rat­ing — might have had a touch more class.

When the vote to­tals sput­tered in from the big cities in the predawn, Ned’s mar­gin of vic­tory was about 44,100, just slightly more than the Repub­li­can en­ablers gave Big Bob at the Au­gust pri­mary, when they thought an­other mil­lion­aire busi­ness­man was a sure thing.

Chris­tian Abra­ham / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Repub­li­can gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date Bob Ste­fanowski makes a cam­paign stop at the Har­borview Market in the Black Rock sec­tion in Bridge­port Oct. 27.

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