Rematch in race for governor? Stefanowski officially joins race

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By Paul Hughes Republican-American

Madison businessman Bob Stefanowski is seeking a rematch against Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont as the 2022 Republican nominee for governor.

Stefanowski ended speculation about his election plans by announcing Wednesday he is seeking the GOP nomination for the second time. The announcement said he has made an initial investment of $10 million into his campaign.

“People in Connecticut are not asking for a lot,” Stefanowski said in a statement. “They want to be safe, to trust that state government is being open and accountable, and to be able to afford to live, work and retire here.”

In the open 2018 contest, Lamont and former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz defeated the Republican duo of Stefanowski and then-state Sen. Joseph Markley by 44,372 votes out of 1,406,803 ballots cast for the five tickets in the race.

At this time, the other registered Republican candidates are Themis Klarides, a former House minority leader, and two lesser known candidates, Timothy J. Elgin and Susan D. Regan.
The Republican Party will endorse a candidate in May.

Stefanowski, a former GE, UBS and payday loan company executive, bucked the party convention process in 2018. Instead, he petitioned his way into a crowded GOP primary and won. He was the first gubernatorial candidate to win a major party’s nomination through this unconventional path.

As a candidate, Stefanowski promised big tax and spending cuts without providing detailed plans. The centerpiece was his plan to phase out the state income tax in eight years. He also campaigned on a message of change.

Then-President Donald Trump endorsed Stefanowski after he won the five-way primary for the Republican nomination, and Stefanowski praised Trump, but he recently released a statement that affirmed President Joe Biden’s election.

Gov. Ned Lamont has been invited as the keynote speaker at the Chamber’s annual Legislative Summit breakfast Feb. 11 at the Wyndham Southbury. (Associated Press)

LAMONT OFFERED MEASURED RESPONSES when asked during a virtual news conference later Wednesday if he had any comments on his vanquished Republican rival’s return or reactions to anything Stefanowski had to say.

“I can respond to every single hit that comes from the political world, but I’m trying like heck to focus on the job at hand,” he said, “and right now it’s getting us through what I hope is the ninth inning of this pandemic, keeping our economy moving, keeping our kids in school and getting this economy growing for everybody. That is what I’m going to focus on.”

Lamont and Bysiewicz registered as candidates for re-election in November just following the municipal elections. In Connecticut, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are nominated separately.

Lamont said he was going to wait on officially launching his re-election campaign.

“I guess we plan to have a formal kick-off later,” he said. “I’ve got a legislative session that is coming up. We’ve got a fair amount on our plate so I’m going to take care of business first.”

STEFANOWSKI ANNOUNCED his candidacy in a statements Wednesday morning, and then did a live radio interview on WPLR-FM’s Chaz & AJ show. He previously called into that show to concede his 2018 defeat to Lamont.

Stefanowski said Connecticut is not better off after nearly four years of Lamont’s leadership, and he slammed the Democratic incumbent on jobs and state economy, taxes, the cost of living in Connecticut, the COVID-19 response, transparency, and crime and police accountability, among other things.

“We’ve got the second-highest taxes in the entire country,” he said in the WPLR interview.

“Connecticut has the highest utility bills in the U.S. Last year was one of the most violent years we’ve had in Connecticut in 10 years. People are tired. They’re worn out. They want change. Chaz, I’ve got a plan to fix it. I’ve got the leadership. I’ve got the commitment to do it, and that is exactly what we are going to do — turn around this state.”

Lamont told reporters the economic and budget outlook have gotten better since he took office in January 2019.

FILE – In this Sept. 26, 2018, file photo, Republican businessman Bob Stefanowski speaks to the media after gubernatorial debate at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

Stefanowski has maintained a public profile since losing to Lamont in his first bid for public office. He has published opinion pieces. He has remained active on social media, including using the handle (at) bobforgovernor on Twitter. He has been meeting with Republican groups all over the state, campaigning for GOP candidates and backing Republican causes. He has supported charitable endeavors, including organizing a face mask distribution operation early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stefanowski also has focused a critical eye on Lamont, and kept up a steady stream of roiling public commentary on what he sees Lamont doing wrong and going wrong with Lamont in charge.

LAMONT SPENT $15.9 MILLION of his personal funds on his 2018 campaign, and Stefanowski raised nearly $6.6 million, including a $2.6 million personal loan.

Lamont declined to say how much he plans to devote to his 2022 run, but he would like to avoid a fundraising arms race.

“If we stick to our message, keep it positive, talk about what you want to do for the state of Connecticut –how, from my point of view, we build on the positive momentum you have seen for the last three years — it doesn’t have to be an arms race,” he said.

Nancy DiNardo, state chairwoman of the Democratic Party, branded Stefanowski too extreme for Connecticut and lauded the Lamont record in a statement reacting to Stefanowski’s announcement.

“The contrast is incredibly clear,” she stated. “While Governor Lamont is leading our state out of a global health crisis, fixing our budget and supporting businesses big and small, Bob Stefanowski has an extreme agenda that would take our state backward.”