Final GOP debate before primary a mostly gentleman-like affair
ROCKY HILL — The final Republican debate ahead of the Aug. 14 primary is an indication of what’s to come, no matter who is nominated by the voters.
All five Republican candidates took shots at the politicians who weren’t in the room — outgoing Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, endorsed Democratic candidate Ned Lamont and even Lamont-challenger Joe Ganim — and generally refrained from attacking each other during the hour-long televised debate.
Danbury mayor and party-endorsed candidate Mark Boughton took one of the first swings at Democrats, answering a question about the reputation of the state’s business climate.
“There are a couple of things that make it detrimental to coming here. Number one is the attitude that the governor has, and sometimes the legislature has, toward the businesses,” Boughton said, adding, “I don’t think the governor has done a lot to reach out.”
Only Tim Herbst, the former first selectman of Trumbull, attacked another candidate directly, and even then he didn’t do it by name. He brought up the voting record and revolving party affiliation of Madison business executive Bob Stefanowski.
Stefanowski, who answered the question about whether he’d support the Republican nominee regardless immediately following Herbst’s slam, didn’t take the bait.
“To answer the question, yes I will support the Republican candidate,” Stefanowski said, ignoring Herbst.
Steve Obsitnik, the Westport tech entrepreneur who is considered the longshot candidate in the crowded field, once again tried to position himself as the candidate in the middle ground and in doing so, made the only other subtle jab at Stefanowski and David Stemerman, who shuttered his Greenwich-based hedge fund to run for governor.
“We have great candidates up here,” Obsitnik said. “If you trust a career politician to fix the problems politicians have created, then you have two great choices up here. If you want to trust two recovering Democrats to be Republicans, then you have two great choices. I am the only real business outsider Republican.”
It wasn’t until the final minutes of the debate, when moderator Dennis House hit the candidates with a speed round of yes or no questions, that the candidates differentiated themselves even slightly.
Herbst, Boughton and Stefanowski have all tried marijuana, while hedge fund mogul David Stemerman and Obsitnik, a Naval veteran, have not. Though Obsitnik said maybe he should. As it turns out, none of them are in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana without further research.
On the best governor in Connecticut, Boughton and Obsitnik chose Ella Grasso while Stemerman said, “none;” Herbst went with Tom Meskill and Stefanwoski said, “Jodi Rell did some good things.”
Counting the five faceoffs held prior to the party convention in May, there have been 13 Republican debates between the candidates for governor, though not all candidates participated in every debate.
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