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Stefanowski, Lamont To Face Off For Conn. Governor

Jessica Hill
Connecticut gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski, left, celebrates after defeating four other contenders in the Republican primary. Ned Lamont celebrates his Democratic primary victory.

Republicans and Democrats in Connecticut have chosen their candidates for governor.

Republicans backed former GE executive Bob Stefanowski of Madison, while Democrats backed cable television entrepreneur Ned Lamont of Greenwich.

Lamont, the party-endorsed candidate, handily defeated Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim with over 80 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary. Lamont has called for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, more funding for local education, electronic tolls for heavy trucks, and paid family and medical leave. He used his victory speech to blast the policies of President Donald Trump.

“Elections matter. We found that out the hard way about 18 months ago, his name is Donald Trump,” he said. “I don’t know who my Republican opponent is gonna be, but I can tell you one thing: These are not George and Barbara Bush Connecticut Republicans. It’s a new breed of Trump Republicans. We’re not gonna let them take over our state.”

Twleve years ago, Lamont defeated veteran U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman in a Democratic showdown that was viewed nationally as a referendum on the war in Iraq. Lamont later lost in the general election when Lieberman ran as an Independent.

As in 2006, Lamont is hoping to ride a wave of national discontent among Democrats. He has promised to "save Connecticut" from the dogma of Trump and his fellow Republicans, whether it's on immigration, the weakening of environmental standards, limiting of access to abortion or scaling back of union members' rights.

"He's wrong. We're going to draw a line in the sand. We're fighting for Connecticut values, not Trump values, Connecticut values. We are going to be the firewall," Lamont told supporters who gathered in New Haven.

Lamont’s victory over Ganim in the 2018 primaries came at the end of an unlikely comeback attempt. Ganim was re-elected mayor of the state’s largest city after spending seven years in jail for corruption. He struck a conciliatory tone in his concession speech and reminded supporters he had been an underdog in the race.

“It started with barriers we were told were insurmountable, yet we charged ahead,” he said. “Whether it was, no, you’re not going to get enough delegates at a convention, you need to go out and get signatures, or to be outspent, all of that doesn’t matter now.”

Ganim pledged to work to help get Lamont elected.

The contest for Connecticut governor is likely to be an expensive affair. Both candidates are wealthy businessmen who are self-funding their campaigns. This is the first time since 2006 that neither candidate for governor is taking part in the state’s public campaign financing program, which limits how much candidates can spend.

Stefanowski won a five-way race Tuesday night to clinch the Republican nomination. He defeated the party-endorsed candidate, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, former Greenwich hedge fund manager David Stemerman, former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, and Westport entrepreneur and Navy veteran Steve Obstinik.

“So I think it’s fair to say this campaign's been underestimated from the start, "Stefanowski told supporters in Madison. “I don’t think anybody really thought we’d be standing here right now, but we’ve proved them wrong, and we’re going to prove them wrong when we beat Ned Lamont.”

Stefanowski gained name recognition by running a series of ads, in which he pledged to fix the state’s fiscal woes. He called himself “Bob the Rebuilder.”

He pledged to eliminate the state income tax and tied Lamont to unpopular outgoing Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy.

“Our great state simply cannot afford a continuation of Dan Malloy’s horrible economic policy with Ned Lamont,” Stefanowski said.

The four Republicans Stefanowski defeated pledged to help him win in November, including Boughton.

“Certainly as a Republican, I will stand tall with our ticket and make sure that our folks get elected and reelected this fall because again it's about the team, and I always talk about the team to everybody,” Boughton said.

This was Boughton’s third attempt to run for governor.

Stefanowski's win sets up a likely battle this fall over the policies of Malloy, who is not running for a third term, and Republican President Donald Trump, who Lamont has vowed to fight.

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