OP-ED | Major Party Candidates For Governor Inspire Little Confidence
The release of the most recent Q-poll on this year’s statewide races in Connecticut was much anticipated, in part because Quinnipiac University seemed to have largely backed away from polling in its home state. But also because the lower you get on the food chain, the fewer polls there seem to be.
There are so many polls for national offices that RealClearPolitics has even taken to averaging them. But on the state level, we political junkies savor every polling morsel we can get.
Now that the dust has settled from this month’s party primaries, the Q-poll results were a little surprising to me. Democrat Ned Lamont leads Republican Bob Stefanowski 46-33 percent. Unaffiliated candidate Oz Griebel snagged 4 percent, while Libertarian candidate Rod Hanscomb barely registered at 1 percent. In a head-to-head match-up between the two major-party nominees, Lamont’s lead expands by three points. And he’s winning across all age groups.
On one level, there were few surprises. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy leads his Republican challenger by more than 30 points, while 61 percent of poll respondents say they approve of the job Murphy’s colleague in the Senate, Richard Blumenthal, is doing.
But I must confess I really thought it would have been closer between the two major-party nominees than 13 points. The recently released Sacred Heart University poll had Lamont ahead by only about four points, but the sample was half the size of the Q-poll. Still, as my colleague Susan Bigelow pointed out past week, at roughly this time in 2010, Quinnipiac had Dannel Malloy leading Republican challenger Tom Foley by nine percentage points, but Malloy barely squeaked by in November.
Both Lamont and Stefanowski are wealthy businessmen capable of funding their own campaigns, but there the similarity ends. While Stefanowski has had a distinguished career in the corporate world, he has shown little or no interest in public service. Indeed, with the exception of a municipal election last year in Madison, he couldn’t even be bothered to vote for the last 16 years. Nor has Stefanowski even felt inclined to run for dogcatcher — to say nothing of the highest office in the state. Even by the low standards of politics, it’s a display of breathtaking arrogance.
And it’s a strategy that has not worked well for Republicans. Over the course of the last eight years, two self-funding business people with no real history of public service — Linda McMahon and the aforementioned Foley — both made a pair of runs for statewide office. They crashed and burned. More often than not, it seems that voters will reject presumptuous and egotistical business people who run for office on the premise that politics is easy.
Lamont, on the other hand, has run for statewide office twice and has at least some public service to brag about: one term as a selectman in Greenwich and three terms on the board of finance. In addition he chaired the state investment advisory council, which oversees the investment of the state employee pension funds. During his term as chair, the performance of the pension funds reduced its unfunded liability.
Obviously, this raises the question of why Lamont isn’t running for state treasurer instead of fellow Democrat nominee Shawn Wooden, who presided over the Hartford City Council as the the city’s finances were collapsing and, as Wooden’s opponent in the Democratic primary put it, “the Hartford Yard Goat Stadium project was riddled with corruption and mismanagement?”
Be that as it may, Lamont will have to thread a needle with a tiny eye. While his party has made some small progress in dealing with the state’s fiscal crisis, the fact remains that two massive tax increases have done little, if anything, to right the ship. How does the Democratic nominee defend that kind of record?
From President Donald Trump’s unqualified praise (”Bob has my total Endorsement!”), to an economic plan written by the widely discredited Reagan-era economist Arthur Laffer, to a harebrained scheme to eliminate the state income tax, Stefanowski is doing everything he can to give Lamont an opening.
Some members of the Republican establishment realize this and are already starting to look for scapegoats. Former attorney general candidate and Sandy Hook conspiracy-monger Martha Dean recently lashed out on Facebook at conservatives who haven’t jumped on the Bob bandwagon. Among other things, she called Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti a “douchebag” for seeking the independent party nomination for governor after failing to qualify for the Republican primary.
Dean also accused Griebel and Journal Inquirer columnist Chris Powell of suffering from “grumpy old guys with big egos syndrome.” Dean asks how the GOP can “ever move forward with these guys clinging to their former fame and intentionally screwing it up for any serious GOP gubernatorial candidate — now Bob Stefanowski — with a real shot at winning and fixing Connecticut?”
I can understand Dean’s contempt for Republican Lauretti, whose unsuccessful move to win the Independent Party ballot line looked like a case of sour grapes. But what do Powell and Griebel owe the GOP? Griebel has just qualified for the ballot and is no longer a Republican. Powell is a semi-retired newspaper columnist.
This is just one more example of two-party entitlement that breeds resentment when candidates refuse to run as a Republican or a Democrat. Party bureaucrats discourage voters from looking at third-party candidates’ proposals. Instead, the electorate is confronted with questions such as: From whom will the interloper steal votes that rightly belong to Republicans and Democrats?
But of course the parties know best. Look who they nominated. My vote will likely go to Griebel, the businessman who knows Hartford. He doesn’t have Lamont’s baggage, doesn’t owe the unions anything, and isn’t making wild-eyed promises about taxes. Now if I can just steer clear of Martha Dean between now and Nov. 5.
Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at CTDevilsAdvocate.com and is managing editor of The Berkshire Edge in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill or email him at [email protected]
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