When will Stefanowski start running?
Knock, knock, knock. Oh, hi Mrs. Stefanowski. Can Bob come out and play?
Well, apparently not.
It’s so much easier to run a disembodied campaign for governor via the comfortable scripts of TV and video ads. What’s better than the friendly softballs of conservative-radio hosts?
It’s tough getting out on the campaign trail every day — like Democrat Ned Lamont — and interact with the public and those pesky reporters, with their pointed questions, who represent the 2 million voters expected to show up at the polls Nov. 6.
Republican Bob Stefanowski, the former business executive who thinks he can run the state like a failing corporation, is staging a no-show campaign. His public appearances are few and far between. His knowledge of how government works is sketchy, and his supply-side guru — Arthur Laffer, as he is quick to name check — isn’t exactly the economic gold standard.
Stefanowski ignores questions that are uncomfortable. He defaults to a standard mantra. “I’m lowering taxes and Ned Lamont is raising taxes,” Stefanowski says. “That’s what this race is gonna come down to. I don’t think the argument is about what the details of people’s plans (are). This is a stark contrast.”
Fred Carstensen, professor of finance at UConn, who heads the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis, told me that the alleged tax-cutting-spurs-growth idea that Laffer espouses is a fraud that caused real damage in states such as Kansas.
“No serious economist takes Laffer seriously,” Carstensen said. “I don’t know a single person who takes it seriously. Of course, the Laffer approach would eviscerate education, as it has in several states that went to four-day school weeks and slashed all kinds of programs, stopped buying new textbooks, etc. It would also eviscerate investments in infrastructure.”
Stefanowski’s promise that the cuts would pay for themselves is also unproven. “Neither theory nor history offer any support for his mythology,” Carstensen said. It would also require a massive increase in local property taxes.
Then there’s the matter of Connecticut not knowing where Stefanowski stands on hundreds of other subjects that are part of a governor’s job.
So his high marks for President Donald Trump should be translated as what? Does he buy the tax plan that will take away deductions for hundreds of thousands of Connecticut homeowners?
“How can you argue with what he’s doing?” more than one Republican operative has told me. “He won the primary.” Primaries and general elections are two different processes. All the Republicans who voted for the primary’s five candidates for governor don’t equal the votes Lamont received in crushing Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim in the Democratic primary.
So, are voters going to accept that he can cut the income tax? “I guarantee that it’s going to go down,” he said. How will he cut expenses? “There’s a lot of discretionary spending that happens in this state that we can cut back.” Gee, you don’t think the General Assembly has gone after it already?
He talks of cutting the size of government as if it were an underperforming division of his former employer, General Electric, which is now practically a penny stock.
“You got to be able to hold politicians accountable for what they say they’re going to do,” he said. “Which is one of my plans, as well, is to have referendum, initiative and recall.”
Amendments to the state Constitution can occur in two ways, according to the state attorney general’s office.
The General Assembly can pass a constitutional amendment that would then be ratified by the voters, such as the one that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot to protect transportation funding from predatory lawmakers. The other way is for the General Assembly to convene a constitutional convention, which would open it up for anything, including an ultra-conservative agenda.
Does Stefanowski support an ultra-con shopping list? Beats me — and you — because he’s running a stealth campaign.
Cheri Quickmire, executive director of Common Cause in Connecticut, notes that there are clear rules on how the General Assembly and governor can get changes to the Constitution on statewide ballots.
“He’d be pleased to know that in fact we the have election reforms he’s interested in,” Quickmire said.
While Connecticut doesn’t have direct California-style referendum through public petition, there is a legal recall process. It’s called elections. There is also an impeachment process, which was last used in 2004, before John G. Rowland, the disgraced former governor, went to prison for the first time.
Ken Dixon, political editor and columnist, can be reached at 860-549-4670 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit him at twitter.com/KenDixonCT and on Facebook at kendixonct.hearst.