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Lamont, Griebel, Stefanowski Spar Over Business, Immigration At Latest Debate

Jessica Hill and Bill Sikes for AP / Ebong Udoma for WSHU
Connecticut gubernatorial candidates Ned Lamont, Democrat; Oz Griebel, independent; and Bob Stefanowski, Republican, met at a debate last night sponsored by the Connecticut Association of Broadcasters.

On Thursday, in their latest debate, three of the candidates running for governor in Connecticut clashed over the idea of running state government like a business.

All three candidates in the debate came to politics from the business world. Republican Bob Stefanowski, who used to be a corporate executive, promised to run Connecticut like a business if elected. Independent candidate Oz Griebel, a former CEO of the MetroHartford Alliance business group, took issue with that.

“You cannot run the state of Connecticut like a business. With all due respect, business principles can be applied. But you can’t outsource an agency to India. You can’t eliminate unprofitable customers. That’s not what governors do. Governors have to fill the void that the private sector can’t fill.”

That prompted this response from Stefanowski.

“Elections are about contrasts, and you’ve just heard it from Oz. He thinks we should continue to run Connecticut like a government and not have any state fiscal discipline like you use in a business. I’ve run small, medium and large-size organizations. The state of Connecticut is a $40 billion biannual budget that’s broken and needs to be turned around.”

Democrat Ned Lamont, who used to own a cable company, argued that business values alone cannot fix Connecticut’s problems.

“I would be the first governor in decades, generations, who started a business, created jobs, and knows how to work with business community. It’s about that, and it’s also about what type of state you want to be. It’s about our Connecticut values. It’s about the environment. It’s about respecting women. It’s about reproductive rights. It’s about guns and making sure on the sixth anniversary of Sandy Hook we don’t roll back and go with somebody who got a triple A rating from the NRA.”

The Trump administration’s immigration policy also came up as an issue in the debate.

Lamont defended cities like New Haven and Hartford that have declared themselves sanctuary cities.

“I dare on the side of being generous. These are people who are fleeing persecution. They are fleeing warfare. That is what our country has meant all along. Not people who are abusing the system but are fleeing for their lives. So yes, I would be welcoming in terms of that.”

Griebel agreed.

“This issue of being humane is at the heart of this state. Yes, I understand the point that we ought to cooperate with the federal government. But the notion that we’ve got to make sure that people are treated humanely and have the protection of the law is key to how to deal with these very difficult issues that Congress has punted on for the better part of three decades.”

Stefanowski, however, had a different take.

“I do think we should support people that are here legally. The diversity of our state and our country is one of our biggest assets. But I don’t think sanctuary cities are the way to do it. We cannot pick and choose which federal laws we decide to enforce and which ones we don’t. It’s a slippery slope.” 

The candidates have one more debate before the November 6 election. It will be on October 30 and is sponsored by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.

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.
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