Lamont, Stefanowski clash in 1st Connecticut governor debate
The two major party candidates for Connecticut governor clashed over their plans to close the state’s budget deficit, criminal justice and other issues Wednesday in a debate that also included acrimonious attacks on each other’s business records.
Democrat Ned Lamont and Republican Bob Stefanowski, each with little to no elective experience, squared off at the Garde Arts Center in New London.
At several times Lamont linked Stefanowski to President Donald Trump, whose endorsement of the former executive for companies including General Electric and UBS Investment Bank cuts both ways in left-leaning Connecticut. Stefanowski, in turn, took every opportunity to paint Lamont as a “clone” of the unpopular Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election for a third term.
“We need to do the exact opposite of what Dan Malloy has been doing for eight years and Ned Lamont will just continue it,” Stefanowksi said.
Stefanowski, who has called for eliminating the state income tax, said he would approach the state’s deficit as he did the UBS budget as an executive, pledging to trim at least 5 percent from the annual budget by eliminating fraud, waste and abuse.
Lamont said Stefanowski’s approach was irresponsible, arguing that his rival failed to offer any specifics and could not get rid of parts of state government as you might sell off a losing division of a business.
“That is just the type of political answer that has gotten the state in trouble over the last generation,” said Lamont, who declared himself the candidate of fiscal discipline.
The first debate between the two also highlighted some differences on social issues between Stefanowski, 56, of Madison, and Lamont, 64, a former Greenwich selectman who ran unsuccessfully in the past for governor and U.S. Senate.
Lamont said he would endorse legalization of marijuana, but Stefanowski said that while he was fine with medical uses, he was concerned there is not yet a test to measure impairment of drivers and the state should deal first with more pressing issues. Of the “second chance society” reforms pushed through by Malloy, Lamont said the state was well-served and saving money on prison costs, but Stefanowski said he was concerned inmates who are released early are committing violent crimes and costing Connecticut more money in the long run.
Casting himself as the government outsider, Stefanowski referred often to Lamont as the race’s politician, leading the Democrat to declare that he was the only one to create jobs as the founder of a telecommunications system for college campuses. He noted also that the GE and UBS buildings in Connecticut are now empty.
“I’m quite comfortable that I’m the agent of change and you’re not,” said Stefanowski, who also criticized layoffs at Lamont’s company.
“Just like Donald Trump, Bob Stefanowski has no concept of the truth,” Lamont said.
In a discussion of sanctuary cities and whether local police should enforce federal immigration law, Stefanowski said he did not believe a governor should pick and choose which laws to enforce. He said his focus would be tightly on Connecticut’s economy and that there was no need to involve himself in border issues. Lamont, for his part, said a governor could help protect certain civil liberties from what’s happening in Washington and that he would stand up for Connecticut values.
The debate was sponsored by The Day and WTNH-TV.