Connecticut Lieutenant Governor Primaries A Study In Contrast

Aug 8, 2018

This year’s Republican and and Democratic Party primary race for Lieutenant Governor in Connecticut is a study in contrast.

On the Republican side, a long time party stalwart is talking up his conservative credentials against two women he says are too liberal for the party.

On the Democratic side, a former statewide office holder says her past experience in office makes her better prepared than her opponent, a political newcomer who is a union organizer. 

WSHU’s News Director Dan Katz spoke with Senior Political Reporter Ebong Udoma about the race.

Below is a transcript of their conversation:

KATZ: So Ebong could you tell us more about these candidates?

UDOMA:  Well as you said, on the Republican side we have Joe Markley, he’s probably the most conservative Connecticut state senator.  He’s represented the towns of Southington, Waterbury, Walcott and Prospect for the past 8 years.   Here’s what he had to say about being the best Republican for the job during a recent debate.

MARKLEY:  During that 8 years I’ve done everything I can to fight the destructive policies of Dan Malloy.  I’ve fought him with my vote in the Senate, my speaking on the floor.  I’ve fought him in the courts with some success.  I fought him by making notorious issues out of boondoggles like the New Britain to Hartford Busway .   And I’ve fought him by working with candidates throughout the state to try  to elect Republicans.  Because they only way we’re going to bring the state of Connecticut back is by returning to the principles of the Republican party which made this nation and state great in the first place.  Real fiscal responsibility, personal liberty and economic opportunity.  That’s what got me into this race.  I will work day and night to that end from now until November.

KATZ:  So it was that kind of sentiment that helped Markley win the party’s endorsement at the Republican convention in May?

UDOMA:  Yes it was.   As a matter of fact, just this week, Markley sued Governor Malloy, who is a Democrat, to stop the $10 million bond for a highway toll study that had just recently been passed.  And you know Markley’s activities have not deterred the two women challenging him.   One of them is former Darien Selectman Jayme Stevenson.  She’s trying to take the conservative mantel away from Markley.  Here’s what she said.

STEVENSON: I’m the only fiscal conservative that can win this race in November.  With my successful tenure as the 8 year First Selectman of Darien and the conservative fiscal policies that we bring to our work everyday, I have what it takes from both the public and private sector  experience to win this race in November.

UDOMA: You know Stevenson,who served as bond analysis for six years with Standard and Poor, is calling herself an outsider in the race.

KATZ:  So how about New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, the third person in the race?  

UDOMA:  You know Dan, she’s someone who Republicans have been excited about as the new face of the party.   She’s 30 years old and she’s serving her third term as mayor of the heavily Democratic city of New Britain.  So she has taken some positions that Republicans might consider liberal, like the legalization of marijuana and support for same-sex marriage.   As a matter of fact she says she officiated at a same sex wedding recently.   She feels she’s the best candidate because she can reach across party lines.  

STEWART:   I’m proud of the work I’ve done in the city of New Britain managing as a strong mayor that $250 million dollar budget and over 1,000 employees on a daily basis.  That takes hard work.  I don’t have a town manager form of government. You’re looking at her.   I do the hiring.  I do the firing.  I know  that I have the management and the temperment.  I know I have what it takes to be the next Lt. Governor and looking forward to it. 

KATZ:   OK.  We’ve talked about the Republicans.  Now the Democrats. We have a two way race between former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz and labor organizer Eva Bermudez Zimmerman.   Ebong, is this a classic insider-outsider race?

UDOMA:  Yes.  It appears to be that way.  Susan Bysiewicz served three terms as Secretary of the State.   And before that she served time in the legislature.   And you know ever since she left the Secretary of the State’s position nearly 8 years ago now, she’s been shopping around for another statewide job.  Initially she wanted to run for Attorney General in 2010.  But was blocked by Republicans who successfully challenged her qualifications for the job.   In 2012 she tried unsuccessfully to run for the U.S. Senate being vacated by retiring Senator Joe Lieberman.    She lost in the primary to Christopher Murphy  who now holds that seat.   

Bysiewicz still believes her legislative and statewide office experience will be the key to her winning this race.  Here’s what she says.

BYSIEWICZ:    I do have 6 years of working in the legislature, chairing a major committee.  The Lieutenant Governor also has the role of stepping up if a governor can’t serve.  And that’s important to take into consideration because, between 1945 and 2004, six lieutenant governors have stepped up into that important role and I’m ready on day one.  

KATZ:  Didn’t Bysiewicz end up in the Lt. Governor’s race by cutting a deal not to challenge Ned Lamont for Governor?

UDOMA:  Yes.  Yes she did.  That’s why they’re running together as a ticket even though they’re two seperate votes on the primary, one for governor and one for Lt. Governor.  So there’s a possibility that one of them might be elected and the other not.  That is what Eva Bermudez Zimmerman is hoping for. 

KATZ: Right.  Zimmerman has been saying she’s representing people who have been shut off such deal making.

UDOMA:  Yes she has.  As a matter of fact, she’s making the argument that she represents the urban and minority communities in Connecticut the Democrats need to win and Bysiewicz would not be able to attract, that’s according to Zimmerman.  Here’s her pitch to Democrats.

ZIMMERMAN:  When you’re looking for change, just remember you have change in my candidacy.  We have to make sure that we are all represented.  We have to make sure that our story is represented.  So go to the polls August 14th because I am the change.  I will bring that connection and coalition building that you so desperately need.  And just for a small group, but for everyone. We can’t expect to have different results by electing the same kind of candidates.  It’s time to have different kind of candidates with different experience, with xpertise who are working hard for all of you.

KATZ:  So basically it’s an insider, outsider race in both parties?

UDOMA:  That’s pretty much it.

KATZ:  Ebong Udoma is WSHU’s Senior Political Reporter, thank you for joining us.

UDOMA:  Thank you Dan.

KATZ:  The Democratic and Republican Primary are both on August 14th  next Tuesday.   State residents who are not yet registered have until  Monday at noon to register in person.