Gen­der gap plays role in cam­paign

Can­di­dates fight for votes of women

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Mark Pazniokas CT MIR­ROR

Repub­li­can Bob Ste­fanowski and Demo­crat Ned La­mont are wag­ing an asym­met­ri­cal fight for the votes of women in Con­necti­cut’s race for gov­er­nor, one in which Repub­li­cans are try­ing to keep vot­ers tightly fo­cused on the state econ­omy and Democrats are mak­ing broader ap­peals over state and na­tional is­sues.

Fe­male vot­ers, who are more nu­mer­ous and tend to turn out at higher rates than men, are a prized de­mo­graphic in ev­ery elec­tion cy­cle, but po­ten­tially more so at a time when Wash­ing­ton is riven over the con­fir­ma­tion of Supreme Court Jus­tice Brett Ka­vanaugh, a con­ser­va­tive seen as hos­tile to abor­tion rights and ac­cused of sev­eral long-ago sex­ual as­saults.

Buoyed by a new Quin­nip­iac Uni­ver­sity poll that shows him with a huge ad­van­tage among women, La­mont and his run­ning mate, Su­san Bysiewicz, held a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day to pro­mote what they called “a strate­gic agenda to em­power, sup­port and pro­vide equal op­por­tu­nity to woman in ev­ery facet of their lives.”

La­mont and Bysiewicz re­it­er­ated their sup­port for a paid fam­ily and med­i­cal leave pro­gram that stalled in the Gen­eral Assem­bly, a $15 min­i­mum wage and greater ac­cess to child care. They also called for pre­serv­ing fund­ing for

sex­ual as­sault and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence ser­vices and ex­tend­ing the crim­i­nal statute of lim­i­ta­tions for sex­ual as­saults.

“We’ve got to make sure that busi­nesses and gov­ern­ment ac­com­mo­date the chang­ing work place and make sure it’s eas­ier for women to work and also to take care of things at home, the same thing for the fa­thers,” La­mont said dur­ing the event, which took place at an in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy com­pany in Glastonbury.

He and Bysiewicz, who pri­vately toured a do­mes­tic vi­o­lence shel­ter ear­lier Wed­nes­day, were joined by Nancy Tyler, a do­mes­tic vi­o­lence sur­vivor who now serves on the board of the Con­necti­cut Coali­tion Against Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence. Tyler said that many politi­cians are ig­no­rant about the re­al­i­ties and con­se­quences of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and sex­ual as­sault.

“Hav­ing been through it, I know a lot of women don’t feel like they are be­ing heard, and that has to change,” Tyler said. “Women need gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to hear them, to rec­og­nize and value their con­tri­bu­tions. Right now in Wash­ing­ton, we don’t see that sup­port. We can’t let that hap­pen here in Con­necti­cut.”

On Tues­day night, Ste­fanowski at­tended a more ca­sual event held by Con­necti­cut Women for Change, a coali­tion or­ga­nized late in the cam­paign sea­son to build sup­port among women for Ste­fanowski, or at least to dis­cour­age de­fec­tions from the GOP over the Ka­vanaugh nom­i­na­tion and his po­ten­tial in­flu­ence on abor­tion rights.

Over cock­tails at Lenny and Joe’s Fish Tale, a restau­rant on Long Wharf in New Haven, the Ka­vanaugh con­fir­ma­tion didn’t seem to come up.

“It’s not part of the con­ver­sa­tion,” said Le­ora Levy, a Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee mem­ber and or­ga­nizer of the coali­tion. “It has no part in the con­ver­sa­tion, and it is only the peo­ple who want to dis­tract, who have no

mes­sage, no pos­i­tive mes­sage of their own, who are try­ing to make it a part of the con­ver­sa­tion. We are laser-fo­cused on fix­ing Con­necti­cut, pe­riod.”

Her mes­sage to any woman who leaves the GOP over Ka­vanaugh is sim­ple: “I’m telling them they have made a mis­take. Ka­vanaugh doesn’t af­fect their lives. Ka­vanaugh, like ev­ery per­son, whether male or fe­male, is en­ti­tled to the pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence.”

Ste­fanowski, who also reg­u­larly pro­nounces his cam­paign as be­ing “laser­fo­cused” on fi­nan­cial is­sues, de­clined to say dur­ing a re­cent de­bate be­fore the con­fir­ma­tion if Ka­vanaugh de­served a place on the court.

“I’m go­ing to pass on that,” Ste­fanowski said. “It’s a fed­eral is­sue.”

Levy called Tues­day’s cock­tail party an ex­er­cise in coali­tion-build­ing and friend-mak­ing. At­ten­dees were wel­comed with a soft pitch for con­tri­bu­tions, ei­ther fi­nan­cial or as a cam­paign vol­un­teer.

Sarah O’Con­nor of Nor­walk, who leads the Col­lege Repub­li­cans at South­ern Con­necti­cut State Uni­ver­sity in New Haven, said the Ka­vanaugh con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings showed how men are vul­ner­a­ble to un­cor­rob­o­rated al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual as­sault. She said she thought of her brother.

“I’m scared for him,” she said.

Not­ing that her par­ents are small-busi­ness own­ers, her larger con­cerns for Con­necti­cut re­volved on the eco­nomic is­sues that are cen­tral to Ste­fanowski’s cam­paign.

Other women at the party said they, too, were most con­cerned about the econ­omy and the state’s chronic bud­get woes. “I do be­lieve it’s a spend­ing prob­lem. It’s not a rev­enue prob­lem,” said Jen­nifer Ver­raneault of Bran­ford.

Ste­fanowski min­gled and briefly ad­dressed the au­di­ence, which in­cluded old friends from North Haven where he and his wife, Amy, an­other leader of the coali­tion, both grew up. Ste­fanowski, whose most re­cent pri­vate-sec­tor job was chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of DFC Global, which of­fers pay­day loans and other al­ter­na­tive fi­nan­cial ser­vices, told them he al­ways has in­cluded women on his lead­er­ship teams.

“I have al­ways val­ued di­ver­sity,” Ste­fanowski said. “Ev­ery one of my man­age­ment teams over the years, I’ve had 50 per­cent di­ver­sity. I do that for a rea­son. I want to sur­round my­self with peo­ple who have dif­fer­ent opin­ions. I want to so­licit that opin­ion. If I hang around with peo­ple that are like me, I’m not go­ing to learn a lot.”

Ste­fanowski, who also held se­nior posts at GE and UBS In­vest­ment Bank, men­tioned he had three older sis­ters and three daugh­ters. His wife and daugh­ters are fea­tured in his lat­est com­mer­cial, which seems aimed at the gen­der gap that’s been long ev­i­dent in polling, in­clud­ing the new­est Quin­nip­iac sur­vey.

Among women likely to vote, Ste­fanowski trailed La­mont by 22 per­cent­age points. His ad­van­tage among men was only five points.

La­mont has tried to build on the gen­der gap by cam­paign­ing fre­quently with Bysiewicz, a former sec­re­tary of the state. She of­fers con­stant re­minders that Ste­fanowski’s run­ning mate is Joe Markley, a con­ser­va­tive state sen­a­tor.

“We want to make sure that women have ac­cess to health care, to re­pro­duc­tive health care and to birth con­trol,” Bysiewicz said Wed­nes­day. “And you can count on Ned and I to stand up and de­fend Con­necti­cut’s Roe v. Wade law.”

Con­necti­cut has cod­i­fied the el­e­ments of Roe into state law. The only lim­i­ta­tion on abor­tion that Ste­fanowski says he fa­vors is re­quir­ing parental con­sent or no­ti­fi­ca­tion for a mi­nor to ob­tain an abor­tion.

Women have been a big­ger fac­tor than men in elec­tions for decades. Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Women and Pol­i­tics at Rut­gers Uni­ver­sity, the per­cent­age of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers who turn out to vote has been higher among women in ev­ery pres­i­den­tial elec­tion since 1980 and in mid-terms since 1986.

Ste­fanowski has said his cam­paign’s cen­tral prom­ise — to stim­u­late the econ­omy by elim­i­nat­ing the in­come tax over eight years — is the best pol­icy for men, women and their fam­i­lies. On Tues­day, he briefly hinted at want­ing to in­crease spend­ing in some limited ar­eas — if eco­nomic growth brought in new rev­enue.

“I’ve been con­sis­tent from day one on our poli­cies — what we need for Con­necti­cut. We need to lower taxes. We need to have less reg­u­la­tion,” Ste­fanowski said. “And I fun­da­men­tally be­lieve that that’s what’s go­ing to get this econ­omy mov­ing. It’s go­ing to al­low us to gen­er­ate more tax rev­enues over the medium term that we can use to in­vest in ed­u­ca­tion, in heath care and all the things we need to do in this state.”

Jes­sica Hill / As­so­ci­ated Press

Repub­li­can Party can­di­date Bob Ste­fanowski, left, shakes hands with Demo­cratic Party can­di­date Ned La­mont at the end of a gu­ber­na­to­rial de­bate at the Uni­ver­sity of Con­necti­cut in Storrs on Sept. 26.

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