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Five of The Six Republican Gubernatorial Candidates Square Off

by Christine Stuart | Apr 11, 2014 3:27pm
(6) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Election 2014, Hartford

Christine Stuart photo On questions ranging from gun policy to political corruption, five of the six Republican gubernatorial candidates did their best to answer Friday during the first televised political debate of the 2014 season.

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, Avon Attorney Martha Dean, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, and former West Hartford Town Councilor Joe Visconti participated in the debate sponsored by the Courant and Fox 61 at the Mark Twain House.

Tom Foley, the 2010 Republican nominee, declined an invitation to debate. His absence was marked with a folding chair outside the Twain auditorium.

On any other day, the debate may have been the biggest political news of the moment, but it was upstaged by the arraignment of former Republican Gov. John G. Rowland.

One of the first questions the candidates were asked Friday was about “Corrupticut,” the nickname the state has earned for the number of politicians who have been put behind bars. The question came just hours before Rowland pleaded not guilty to seven counts of campaign corruption. Two weeks ago, a former congressional candidate and her husband pleaded guilty to charges that they illegally paid the former governor-turned-radio-host consulting fees without reporting them to the Federal Election Commission.

“What would you do to clean up Connecticut politics?” Fox 61 Reporter Laurie Perez asked the panel.

Christine Stuart photo McKinney said he’s spent 15 years in the state Senate fighting corruption and was one of the lawmakers who asked Rowland to resign back in 2004 amid another federal inquiry that led to him pleading guilty and going to jail.

“When John Rowland was governor I called on him to step down because we could not have a governor who engaged in illegal activity,” McKinney said. “When Sen. Ernie Newton, a Democrat, engaged in illegal activity, I similarly called for him to step down.”

He estimated that about 99 percent of politicians who serve are good people, “but there are those who break the law, and that cannot be tolerated.” He said it creates voter apathy.

Christine Stuart photo Dean, who got into the race last month, said cracking down on corruption requires strong leadership. She said in order to end the reputation of Connecticut as a corrupt state, voters have to stop sending the same people back to the Capitol.

As far as Rowland is concerned, Dean said she thinks it’s a “black eye to the Republican Party that it’s tolerated.”

McKinney said he’s always “astounded that people might put themselves in positions and make decisions that would violate the law.”

He said he’s always amazed when someone who has been through the criminal justice system and has gone to jail would “jeopardize their freedoms to go back to jail again.”

Lauretti said its hard to legislate behavior. You just have to be diligent about corrupt behavior.

“To a good extent, the system has worked. I’m not sure you can legislate behavior like some people would like to think,” Lauretti said.

Visconti said leading by example is the what needs to be done. He pointed to a Courant story from 2013 in which Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration admitted to using private email accounts to conduct state business.

“We need to look at the current governor and how he has cut and weakened current FOI law,” Visconti said.

Boughton went after the Malloy administration as well and described as “ripe for abuse” some of the current practices they have implemented.

“When certain key individuals who are close to the governor get grants that they probably shouldn’t get, we need to be very afraid,” Boughton said. “Unfortunately, I think there are going to be more of these investigations, more of these bad headlines coming out.”

Christine Stuart photo As far as Rowland is concerned, Boughton said after the debate that he doesn’t think it hurts the Republican Party and people will judge the party on its own merits.

“Obviously, it’s very troubling and deeply disappointing that he would even get near a second time around to having this kind of problem,” Boughton said.

The question was a nice change of pace for Boughton, who has been criticized from both the left and the right on his decision to leave Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Whether the candidates would repeal a bill that tightens restrictions on what types of guns and ammunition a Connecticut resident can possess was one of the first questions posed during the debate.

Boughton said he believes the parents and victims of the Newtown community deserved a legislative response, even though he feels the bill didn’t go far enough on mental health and school security.

“While we spent a lot of time concerned about what kind of flash suppressor a gun has or what kind of magazine it has, we didn’t spend a lot of time on the heavy lifting,” Boughton said. “Mental health care is going to require real input.”

McKinney was the only lawmaker on the panel that voted in favor of the bill and defended his decision. He said he was elected to represent the entire town of Newtown and be their voice in the legislature.

“Leadership’s about making difficult decisions,” McKinney said. “There’s no easy decision after something like Newtown.” He challenged Boughton’s characterization of the legislation. He said they did address mental health and they did address school security.

Dean is an avid gun rights advocate and is helping with a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new law. Visconti, who carries a gun, also is a gun rights advocate.

Lauretti, who has been competitive in raising the necessary funds but shy when it comes to talking to the news media, said he would have opposed the legislation.

“I also think the video game industry has gotten a completely free pass on this thing,” he added.

The Newtown gunman was an avid video game player, but the science about whether violent video games lead to mass murder is not definitive and lawmakers didn’t take any action on video games.

The debate will air again at 10 a.m. Sunday on Fox 61.

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(6) Comments

posted by: shinningstars122 | April 12, 2014  9:14am

shinningstars122

Oh boy talk about boring and uninspired when asked about corruption and eliminating it.

Martha Dean’s comments made me laugh. I guess passing stricter campaign finance laws and term limits is not on her radar screen.

Visconti ” lead by example” is noble but completely naive of the facts on the ground.

Just more useless rhetoric from self serving career politicians.

CT needs people in public service that are innovators and facilitators who can work with all parties and who also have true vision for our state and leadership skills.

Skills which do not require having been being a executive for a large corporation or a millionaire who are only successful at just just making money.

We can see how that game plan has worked for the last 40 years.

Sadly this mediocre pool of re-manufactured and re-packaged “business as usual” lemmings backed by the folks with the power and money is not the answer.

Come on CT fight for a future that will make us all proud.

posted by: StanMuzyk | April 13, 2014  10:11am

@shinningstars122: Your slam at Martha Dean identifies you
as someone who would vote for Dannel Malloy— “even though he has governed the state down the tube.”

posted by: StanMuzyk | April 13, 2014  10:28am

@shinningstars122; Your hit on Martha Dean typifies you as a Democrat who identifies that although Dean is a breath of fresh air—you attack her to take the heat off of Gov. Malloy—“who has damaged this state economically to an all time low.”  Anyone who would take on the mess the state is in under Malloy—deserves voter support. Personally, I like Mark Lauretti—whom I have got to know “as the Great Mayor of Shelton.

posted by: shinningstars122 | April 15, 2014  6:04am

shinningstars122

@StanMuzyk. I was just responding to what Ms. Dean said and regardless for you contempt for the Governor, there was little substance or insight in her response.

You can attack Malloy all you want but honestly it was 20 years of GOP leadership in the Governor’s office that laid the foundation for CT current economic struggles.

Our economy is improving and at least Malloy is doing something about it to help it grow.

I mean honestly Jodi Rell was a complete joke and inept at helping the state.

You can blame her former boss, and mentor,for that one.

I am not familar with the mayor of Shelton. Maybe you can shed some light on what this person has to offer.

I live in NW CT so I am very familiar how things run in Avon. Strip malls and sprawl and no urban planning along RT 44.

Ruining the ridge line along Avon mountain for the ” McMansions.” Yeah that is what CT really needs.

posted by: DCSCT1 | April 15, 2014  10:37am

@shinningstars122
The GOP is not the only party when looking to blame government for this states current economic issues. You seem to forget who has been in control of the state legislature all this time.  A governor no matter the party does not control state spending or economic policy by themselves.

posted by: StanMuzyk | April 15, 2014  10:41am

#shinningstars122:  You obviously were brain-washed long ago by the
Democratic National Committee overused press releases which bypassed the
failed leadership of Pres. Barack Obama—for several years—“by continually passing the buck”  back to Pres. George W. Bush.