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What do we know about the candidates for governor?

Depressing, isn’t it?

In a few days, a very small number of Connecticut voters will look over a field of not particularly well-known candidates and pick two of them to run for governor in November.

I suspect an even smaller number of voters can name all seven of the men whose names will appear on the Democratic and Republican primary ballots next Tuesday.

And so, as a public service, I will take some of this limited space to reproduce their names: Democrats Ned Lamont and Joe Ganim and Republicans Mark Boughton, Tim Herbst, Steve Obsitnik, Bob Stefanowski and David Stemerman.  Boughton and Lamont were endorsed at their party conventions; the rest are challenging the wisdom of the delegates who made them the nominees.

Of the seven, Democratic challenger Ganim is probably the best known, not for his relatively successful five terms as mayor of Bridgeport from 1991 to 2003, but for the six years he served in prison for corruption before being elected mayor once again in 2015.

The pair endorsed by their parties have at least sought higher office in the past, although without success. Boughton, the nine-term mayor of Danbury, the state’s seventh largest city, was defeated by businessman Tom Foley for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010 and 2014.  

Lamont is remembered for winning the Democratic nomination for senator in 2006 over an incumbent, Joe Lieberman, only to lose to Lieberman, who ran as an independent in the general election. Four years later, Lamont ran for governor but lost the nomination to Dan Malloy.  

Only one of Boughton’s primary opponents, former Trumbull first selectman Tim Herbst, has ever run for anything. The others, Obsitnik, Stefanowski and Stemerman, are proud “outsiders,” not politicians, as the commercials of one or more of the wealthy trio inform us. (It is hard to tell them apart.) Their message is that only a non-politician will be able to turn the Connecticut economy around and these guys have shown the way through their business skills.  

The wealthiest candidate, however, is probably Democrat Lamont, the descendant of a House of Morgan chairman. His inherited fortune is being derided by Ganim, whose own fortune was partly self-made or, if you want to be cruel about it, kicked back from Bridgeport contractors.  

Lamont’s commercials are set in a diner where regular guys go and at the wheel of his own car, which he’ll continue to drive in lieu of an expensive state car. The commercial doesn’t tell us how he’ll reform the state’s pension and benefits system or deal with the deficit, but we’ll save on the car from day one.

All of the Republicans have been focusing on that popular object of scorn, the state income tax. Boughton pledges to phase out the tax over 10 years, which means we’ll have to elect him three times to hold him accountable, while Stefanowski claims he can do it in eight. Herbst will eliminate the tax for everyone earning under $75,000 while Obsitnik will raise Herbst’s $75,000 to everyone under $100,000. Stemerman, to his credit, only promises to lower rates and reduce the tax brackets from seven to three. 

And there we have it. What we don’t have is an informed electorate going to the polls on Aug. 14. Most of what they know about each candidate comes from 30-second TV commercials that run the gamut from uninformative to misleading. 

Since I came to Connecticut 60 years ago, every governor has been a former congressman, legislative leader, lieutenant governor or mayor.  Abe Ribicoff, Tom Meskill, Ella Grasso, Lowell Weicker and John Rowland were members of Congress before they ran for governor. John Dempsey was a mayor and lieutenant governor; Bill O’Neill was House majority leader and lieutenant governor, Jodi Rell, a legislator and lieutenant governor and Malloy was mayor of Stamford. 

But this time, no one of prominence in either party wanted to be the next governor of Connecticut. If the man elected in November makes the difficult decisions to get the state on course again, he will offend many voters and never win reelection. If the man elected in November fails to get the state on course again, he will offend many voters and never win reelection. 

That’s why no member of Congress, no legislative leader and no holder of a major statewide office chose to seek the governorship this year.  Call it the profile-in-courage election.   

Simsbury resident Dick Ahles is a retired journalist. Email him at rahles1@outlook.com.