Melancholy mounts in race for governor

I’ve been voting since I filled out an an absentee ballot for Dwight Eisenhower at Fort Knox in 1956 and in all those years, I can’t remember an election with candidates less appealing than the pair running for governor of Connecticut in November—except for the pair who ran for president two years ago. 

I still hope to do my civic duty and vote for someone for governor but at the moment, a month before Election Day, I can’t cast that vote for either of the major party candidates, Ned Lamont or Bob Stefanowski.  

And I’m not convinced by third party candidate Oz Griebel either, although in his only debate with the party nominees, he betrayed more knowledge of how state government works than they did.  

When asked how he’d deal with the looming $4 billion deficit, Griebel said he’d temporarily suspend payments to the state employee and teacher pensions which are already deeply in the red. A highly temporary stopgap at best, but an answer.

But Stefanowski was worse, falling back on his single talking point. He’d cut taxes and pay for the cuts by cutting spending without saying where or how.  Lamont was even less specific, saying he’d get everyone around a table for a kumbaya or something.

Without divine intervention, Griebel, the Republican turned independent, hasn’t a chance against the better financed party nominees. He has, however, taken the lead in one department, the release of his tax returns.  Lamont and Stefanowski had been  playing games with the voters, as Lamont said  he’d release his returns when Stefanowski does and Stefanowski avoided the subject.  But shortly after Griebel acted, the others said they’d follow suit although Stefanowski didn’t make it clear what form his information would take.

This reluctance by the two very wealthy candidates would make one suspect they have something to hide, like the revelation that another millionaire candidate, Tom Foley, had paid a remarkable $673 in federal taxes the year before he ran for governor and lost to Dan Malloy in 2014. This wouldn’t serve either man well while running for governor of this highly taxed electorate.

 I had planned to vote for the Republican candidate this time.  Democrat Dan Malloy took over a fiscal mess left by Republicans John Rowland and Jodi Rell over four terms and built it into the huge deficit facing us today. A bad deal Rowland made with the state employees unions in a futile attempt to win their love was extended by Malloy into something worse. I therefore thought it was time to give the Republicans a shot at fixing things but they couldn’t nominate a viable candidate.  Neither could the Democrats.

The Democratic Party in Connecticut should change its name to the Labor Party as it has become a wholly owned subsidiary of the state’s public employee unions, already hard at work to elect Lamont.   

But the Republican primary voters ignored the one Republican, David Stemerman, who offered an understandable plan to deal with the deficit and pension crisis and gave the nomination to the candidate with the most commercials, the unknown quantity, and brand new Republican, Stefanowski.  

Even the lieutenant governor candidates, who run in tandem with the heads of each ticket, aren’t terribly inspiring.  Democrat Susan Bysiewicz is a losing candidate who can’t break the habit of running and is best known for being told to stop running for attorney general by a judge who determined she didn’t have enough lawyer experience.  

Joe Markley is an ultra-conservative, far to the right of Connecticut’s Republicans. How ultra is Markley? He was one of a very few legislators voting against banning bump stocks used to convert rifles into assault weapons to some effect in the Las Vegas massacre. In 2013, he voted against requiring fluoridated water. He was against equal pay for women and was the only state senator to vote against removing guns from owners under restraining orders.  

Griebel’s running mate, Democrat Monte Frank, is a Newtown lawyer, former president of the Connecticut Bar Assn. and an anti-gun activist.

This isn’t trivial. Since I have lived in Connecticut, three lieutenant governors succeeded to governor; after Abe Ribicoff became a presidential cabinet officer,  Ella Grasso died in office and John Rowland resigned and went to jail. All three successors, John Dempsey, William O’Neill and Jodi Rell, eventually became governors in their own right, so having a worthy successor is important.

So what’s a voter to do? We can hope one or more of the big three  begins to explain his plan for the state’s future  in a bit more coherence than we’ve enjoyed to date but I doubt it.  The debates have been far from informative and I believe there are only two left.  

This leaves those highly informative ads.

Good luck to all of us.

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