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Gubernatorial Candidates Hold First Public Forum In Hartford

Ann Lopez
Greenwich business Ned Lamont accepts the Connecticut Democratic Party's nomination for governor in Hartford last month.

Three Republicans and one Democrat who would like to be the next governor of Connecticut were given a chance to make their pitch to voters at a televised gubernatorial candidate forum at the University of Hartford on Thursday. The forum was organized by the Governor Jodi Rell Center for Public Service at the University of Hartford.

The four participants at the forum were the Democratic- and Republican Party-endorsed candidates, Ned Lamont and Mark Boughton, and the two candidates who qualified for their party primary without petitioning, Republicans Tim Herbst and Steve Obsitnik.

It was a job interview for the candidates as they appeared one after another answering similar questions from a moderator for about 11 minutes.

First up was the Republican Party-endorsed candidate Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton. He touted his experience running the city of Danbury for the past 18 years.

“I’m not a millionaire, I’m a thousandaire, so I understand all the challenges everybody faces. So if you can empathize with somebody right off the bat before you say anything and spend your time listening a little bit, and I think all of us in leadership positions need to spend a little time listening and a little less time talking and I think I’m very good at that. And that’s able to disarm people and come to solutions and resolutions to whatever the problem might be.”

Tim Herbst, a former Republican first selectman of Trumbull, also talked up his ability to get people together.

“I actually had more Democrats than Republicans on my senior staff. But that never bothered me because if they were committed to helping me achieve the goals and objectives of the mission, that didn’t bother me. The perspective that I really appreciated was when they would offer me a counterpoint or disagree with me but sometime when they would disagree with each other. And I would listen to both points of view and it would help me formulate my game plan and my thought process on any given issue.”

Democratic Party-endorsed candidate Ned Lamont, a millionaire businessman from Greenwich, also claimed an ability to work across party lines.

“I’m a Democrat by principle, and I’m a Democrat by conviction, but I look like a Republican so I can work pretty well with folks…we can’t get this done if one party wants to say not on my watch no way, we are going to be stuck. I am going to have to show people that they are at the table and I don’t have to take any of the credit by the way.”

Republican Steve Obsitnik, a Navy submarine veteran and businessman, said his military experience would make him a good governor.

“The military taught me how to lead by example. And I don’t talk as much. I think people through the process so far have said Steve stays above the fray because I like to let my actions speak for myself. And the Naval Academy where I graduated, we basically had a very simple code to live on—“Midshipmen don’t lie, cheat or steal” — and I try to stay very clearly on one side of that line because my head rests very easily on my pillow at night. And that’s the way I treat people with respect with dignity. Now we may disagree over things over time. Because what I have learned about myself as an entrepreneur and business leader is that there are creators like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and they’ll walk out they’ll create something. I synthesize.”

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim wasn’t invited because he hasn’t received enough verified signatures to make it onto the Democratic Party gubernatorial primary ballot.

He needs 15,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot. He says he’s already got 20,000, but Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s office has verified only 381 signatures for Ganim.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.