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Griebel, Lamont, Stefanowski debate the issues; few policy details emerge

September 27, 2018

MANSFIELD — Unaffiliated candidate Oz Griebel finally got his chance to change the conversation around the governors race.

In a debate Wednesday at the University of Connecticut, Griebel, who was barred from the first two debates between Republican Bob Stefanowski and Democrat Ned Lamont because of low polling numbers, shared a stage with the two major party candidates in front of an audience made up, primarily, of millennials.

But adding a third candidate to the mix changed the dynamic only slightly — Lamont often addressed Griebel, quoting him on certain issues and even calling him a Republican at one point.

“This is sort of a unique opportunity for me. I’ve only run against Democrats before. Oz is a traditional Republican and Bob is more of a Trump Republican.,” Lamont said, referencing his 2006 primary run against U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman and his 2010 challenge to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and drawing the first out-of-order applause of the night more than half-way through the debate.

Griebel, who was previously registered as a Republican but is now running as an unaffiliated candidate, clarified: “Let’s be clear, I am an independent.” He later offered a second clarification, he is not a member of the Independent Party, which he pointed out endorsed Stefanowski with only 40 votes out of its 25,000 members.

“Many of them don’t even know they’re registered with a party,” Griebel said.

Stefanowski, on the other hand, seemed to forget Griebel was there, instead sticking to his script on the economy, declining to answer questions unrelated to taxes, and only taking shots at Lamont and Malloy. In his first two minutes, Stefanowski mentioned both by name, but offered little in terms of specifics.

“The spending in this state is out of control,” Stefanowski said. “I’m going to rein it in ... The status quo has to end. It’s time to make some tough decisions. It’s time to make government smaller. It’s time to put money back in the pockets of the people of Connecticut. The best way to do that is by lowering taxes.”

A rapid-fire round put Stefanowski on his heels on any question unrelated to the economy. On whether or not Supreme Court Justice Nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault, should be confirmed, Stefanowski declined to answer. He also declined to grade Donald Trump on his presidency so far — though he does think the president should Tweet less. Griebel and Lamont gave the president a D+ and F, respectively.

Asked to explain in detail what they would do in their first 100 days in office to address a projected $4.6 billion budget deficit, Griebel was the only candidate to offer suggestions.

”We’ve talked about taking the max amount out of rainy day fund, we’ve talked about potentially not contributing to state employee retirement fund for two years ... but the personal income tax has to stay in place to make sure we do minimal damage as we go forward,” Griebel said, addressing Stefanowski’s primary campaign promise to eliminate the state’s personal income tax.

Lamont offered little in terms of details as to what he would do in the first 100 days.

“I’ll give you some specifics,” Lamont said. “Number one, I’d be the first governor in generations who’s started a business and actually created jobs. Working hand-in-glove with the business community. Making sure we train people for the jobs we already have out there. Not more taxes but more taxpayers. That’s how you get the state going again.”

The candidates won’t appear on a debate stage again until Oct. 18.

kkrasselt@hearstmediact.com; 203-842-2563; @kaitlynkrasselt

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