Connecticut Republicans will choose their nominee on August 14 and no candidate has emerged as the front runner. As there are few ideological differences, most voters are trying to determine the strongest candidate to take on the probable Democratic nominee – Greenwich multimillionaire Ned Lamont. I have not decided yet, but below is my impression of the strengths and weaknesses of each.
Mark Boughton. It is hard to speak to Mark Boughton and not develop an immediate fondness for the guy. Cordial and receptive, he is an accomplished politician who has governed Danbury as mayor for nine terms and continuously wins reelection easily, even though Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-1 margin. He is a former public school teacher, state assemblyman and served our country in the military. He has a plan to eliminate the state income tax and said he would “lie down on Route 84” before allowing tolls. He is the endorsed candidate, meaning he won the majority of the delegates at the Republican Convention. Ironically, his main weakness is his success. With the state in such financial distress, many voters may feel that such an accomplished politician may be too willing to make deal with the Democrats, rather than take the brutal steps necessary to turn Connecticut around.
Tim Herbst. Tim has been plotting his path to Pennsylvania Avenue since he started emitting brain waves while in utero. A political prodigy and self-described “student of the game,” Herbst won his first election at age 19 when he became a member of Trumbull’s Planning and Zoning Commission. Ten years later, he upset the Democratic incumbent and became the First Selectman. He reduced the number of political appointees and decreased pension and health costs of town employees. He can be abrasive at times, but this may be what it takes to get the state in order. Nobody works harder than Herbst and if he is the nominee, he will be cleaning the toilets of voters who are on the fence. He is attracting the more conservative elements of the Republican Party and has the endorsement of the FIC (Family Institute of Connecticut), a socially conservative group skeptical of abortion and gay rights. He also has the endorsement of the CCDL (Connecticut Citizens Defense League), a group that defends gun owners’ rights. This may help him in the primary but in Deep Blue Connecticut, you can be sure the Democrats will pounce on him for these associations should he be our nominee.
Steve Obsitnik. Steve surprised the political class when he received enough delegate support at the Republican convention to qualify for the primary. He has run for Congress in Fairfield County, losing to the popular Jim Himes in 2012. A Westport resident, he graduated from Annapolis and the Wharton School of Business and was part of the team that developed the voice-recognition software of Siri. He is a fiscal conservative and social moderate and well-positioned ideologically should he be the nominee. His main weakness is that at the time of this writing, he has not received the funds for the Connecticut’s Citizen Election Program while his opponents are already on the airwaves. But the van he is riding while touring the state is receiving great publicity and with a little luck, he should soon have the funds to compete.
Bob Stefanowski. A political newcomer, Stefanowski decided to bypass being nominated at the Republican Convention and qualified for the primary by gathering signatures. He was the first candidate to hit the airwaves and thus has a head start in name recognition. A denizen of Madison, he has an impressive business resume. His greatest asset is that he is an outsider and when one hears him speak, he gives the impression that he has the testicular fortitude to veto any bill that does not restore fiscal sanity, even if it means his popularity sinks to single digits. Other candidates from the political class may balk in a similar scenario. His opponent for the outsider mantle, Dave Stemerman, appears to have access to more cash (both men have mostly self-financed and are not participating in the Citizens Election Program) and this may place him at a disadvantage not only in the primary, but in the general election.
Dave Stemerman. Another political newcomer, Stemerman is an alternative to Stefanowski for voters who believe only a political outsider can clean up the fiscal mess in Hartford. A graduate of both Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School, the Greenwich resident made a fortune running a hedge fund. He is the only candidate at this point who is specific about where the cuts must be made to restore fiscal sanity and has the intellectual honesty to admit that the state income tax cannot be repealed. He has already lent $10,000,000 to his campaign and appears to have the limitless resources that will be needed to fight another Greenwich plutocrat, Ned Lamont. The downside of his candidacy is that Tom Foley and Linda McMahon – both Greenwich plutocrats – did not do well in state wide elections when nominated.
As there are little ideological differences between the candidates, this campaign could get ugly and personal very quickly. Expect to see attack ads any day now. If this happens, the losers and their supporters should get over it immediately and unite behind our nominee the day after the primary. We cannot afford to sulk and lick our wounds. If the Democrats win again, those who choose to stay in our beautiful state will soon be paying outrageous tolls to support forty-year vacations for the burgeoning retiring class of state and municipal workers along with the freeloading Democratic political cronies.