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GOP candidates serve up Coffee and conversation

October 11, 2018

GREENWICH — Greenwich has long been considered one of the reddest towns in Connecticut, but a member of the local Republican Party told an audience in Cos Cob Thursday the GOP stronghold is not what it used to be.

“Being able to say we’re Republican and proud is a very hard thing to do in this town,” Jessica Del Guercio, a member of the Republican Town Committee, told a gathering at Caren’s Cos Cobber Thursday morning.

Del Guercio, fellow RTC member Kimberly Salib, and Leora Levy, a Greenwich resident and member of the Republican National Committee, organized an event at the restaurant for residents to meet Republican candidates running in next month’s election.

With rare exceptions, Greenwich Republicans historically have held a lock on the town’s delegation to Hartford and top municipal posts. But Del Guercio said her experience has been shaped by her own successful race last year for Greenwich’s Representative Town Meeting.

“It’s very important to hear both sides,” Del Guercio said. “I’m a fiscal conservative and I think I’m more moderate to liberal when it comes to social items and issues. I do believe that in our state and in Greenwich itself I’ve felt afraid to come out and say I am Republican and I know other women who feel the same way. They feel there is a lot of backlash when they voice opinions that aren’t on the Democratic side.”

The event was particularly geared toward women voters. Literature was distributed trumpeting the Greenwich Hartford delegation’s work to pass stricter domestic violence laws, and win state reimbursement money for the new building for New Lebanon School.

Levy said women here are not caught up in recent national issues like the sexual assault allegations against new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“Women in Connecticut are interested in the kitchen table issues,” Levy said. “Those are the priorities we face at home and we worry about at home, not necessarily some of the extraneous, distracting issues people think we worry about.”

Candidates on hand included Greenwich resident Harry Arora, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Jim Himes in the Fourth Congressional District; State Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-36; and State Reps. Livvy Floren, R-149, Michael Bocchino, R-150, and Fred Camillo, R-151. State treasurer candidate Thad Gray also appeared at the event as did Amy Stefanowski, the wife of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski.

They spoke to a crowd that grew close to 30 people during the course of the morning.

“Forty-plus years of single party rule has wrecked this state,” Frantz said, referring to Democrats’ long-held control of the state Legislature. Republicans in 2016 achieved a rare 18-18 tie in the State Senate.

“We have gone from one, two or three in all the important categories like best place to raise a family and start a business and place to educate your kids to number 48, 49 or 50,” Frantz said. “Pay close attention to what’s going on in Hartford from a fiscal point of view because at some point we’re going to be in an insolvency-type crisis and I’m not sure how we’re going to handle it. It could happen tomorrow, literally.”

Camillo added, “The State Senate is tied and if the House picks up five seats there’s a change. This is one of the bluest states in America and it’s about to become Republican. ... It’s critical. We all know people that have moved to Florida, the Carolinas or Georgia and we’re trying to tell them we got a lot of economic reforms into the budget.”

In order to close the state’s budget deficits, the Republican delegation noted their work in getting spending and bonding caps put into the bi-partisan budget approved last spring.

“Instead of investing in mass transportation, affordable housing and education sometimes we invest in splash pads or we invest in turf fields,” said Floren, speaking in her role on the state’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. “It’s not that those are not OK, but in these dire economic times I think we should only invest in what is absolutely necessary.”

While issues like gun law reform have come up on the campaign trail, Republican delegation members defended their records and said they strongly support Connecticut’s laws while claiming Democrats were offering distractions about national matters that aren’t being decided in local and state races.

“You’ve got a group of people who don’t have any platform to run on,” Bocchino said. “They have no record. They have nothing of substance that they can say they have and will do for the state of Connecticut so they deflect and will deflect to national issues that don’t affect the state of Connecticut directly, because we’ve got the strictest firearm laws in the country and it’s due in part to what Sen. Frantz has done for us.”

Democrats were quick to fire back on Thursday.

“The state needs structural reform,” said Stephen Meskers, who is running against Bocchino largely based on his 35 years of experience in finance. “I will work to lower taxes and improve the delivery of services. Our pension plan problems will require a lot of fiscal work to fix. I have sat through countless debt restructurings in my career. To suggest I have nothing to offer the electorate is just silly. As for gun safety laws, I think that common sense gun laws were passed by the majority party with partial support from others.”

Alexandra Bergstein, the Democrat running against Frantz, has made gun safety a major issue in her campaign and she insisted it is something voters want to hear about.

“The NRA is a clear and present danger to Connecticut gun safety laws,” Bergstein said Thursday. “Republican candidates for governor and Lt. governor, Bob Stefanowski and Joe Markley, have earned an A and A-plus rating from the NRA because they pledged to repeal every gun safety law we have, including the 2013 landmark law passed after the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Anyone who supports these candidates is helping to advance the NRA agenda. And anyone who says otherwise is being disingenuous.”

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com

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