CONNECTICUT, USA — It's round two for Gov. Ned Lamont and Republican nominee for governor Bob Stefanowski. The two are renewing their races against each other after round one in 2018.
As of May 26, Lamont leads Stefanowski 51-43%, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. Independents were mostly divided with 47% in favor of Lamont and 43% supporting Stefanowski.
The race in 2018 was at times heated with Lamont going after Stefanowski, linking him to then-President Donald Trump, while Stefanowski would paint Lamont as a “clone” of then-Gov. Dannel Malloy.
While the campaigns were grueling at times, by the end, Lamont said he knew that Stefanowski was working his heart out to change the state. Stefanowski said that all three candidates wanted to do the right thing for him and the state.
Also running for governor at the time as an Independent was the late Oz Griebel, who had a previous attempted run at governor in 2010 as a Republican. Griebel was struck and killed by a car in Pennsylvania in 2020.
The 2022 race has renewed the competition as politics in the four years since has, at times, become more contentious nationally. The election also comes as the country is still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and its after-effects on the country’s and state’s economy including rising inflation.
Here’s a look at the two candidates, where they stand on key issues, their background, and what they pledge to bring to the table.
Gov. Ned Lamont
Lamont, a Democrat, is the incumbent after being elected in 2018, with his term officially starting in 2019.
In that year-long span, Lamont had signed into law several bills including one that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 by 2023, three laws that focused on gun safety, raising the age of which someone can buy tobacco to 21, and a bill that limited police immigration actions in the state.
Another ambition of Lamont was to tackle the state’s infrastructure and improve transportation. Lamont's proposed plan to pay for it would be by reintroducing tolls to the state’s highways. The idea was met with swift backlash from state Republicans, some Democrats, and residents across the state.
After the bill stalled in the state House and Senate, a frustrated Lamont returned to the drawing board, looking at a regional approach to climate change.
The Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) is an initiative that could generate $1 billion for Connecticut, Lamont’s administration said at the time. The initiative aimed to reduce carbon emissions and invest in clean energy infrastructure. Opponents to the initiative stated it was just another gas tax, but the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection stated that anyone stating that is “peddling misinformation.”
Lamont challenged the “naysayers,” saying he’d like to hear their other solution for the transportation fund after his first attempt with the tolls failed.
In February 2020, Lamont signed the state budget which included a new mileage-based tax on big trucks traveling on Connecticut’s highways.
In the budget were two main sources of revenue for the state: Recreational marijuana and the introduction of sports betting.
As Lamont set his sights on what he could bring to the table in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic landed at Connecticut’s doorstep with the first known positive case confirmed on March 8.
The pandemic would be front and center for the rest of Lamont’s current term.
Lamont declared a public health emergency just days after the first few known cases were confirmed, allowing him to make executive decisions without waiting for the legislature to discuss and vote.
Connecticut became the second state to enact a mask mandate (New Jersey was the first), and Lamont handed down restrictions and guidance to help Connecticut weather the still-ongoing pandemic. Restaurants were closed unless adequate outdoor dining was available, gatherings were prohibited, and people were asked to work from home if possible. Work was already underway at bridging the digital divide for homes lacking adequate online learning resources.
Over the summer of 2020, Connecticut saw positivity numbers under 1% while the rest of the country began to see their positivity rates rise.
But, the restrictions came at a cost, particularly for local restaurants.
In July 2020, Lamont signed into law a police reform bill in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death sparked national protest and demand for law enforcement reforms.
The police reform bill was controversial, particularly over the change to qualified immunity.
Connecticut also became the eighth state to put the Creating A Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair act, otherwise known as the CROWN Act, on the books. The legislation makes it illegal to discriminate against hairstyles that are historically associated with race.
Lawmakers also tackled the debate over repealing the religious exemption for routine childhood vaccinations. The exemption was repealed on April 27 and signed into law two days later by Lamont.
The bill grandfathers children already in public schools and use the religious exemption.
Lamont said the legislation is needed to protect kids against serious illnesses like measles, tuberculosis, and whooping cough that have been well-controlled for decades using vaccines but have reemerged.
The state legislature also tackled domestic violence by passing a bill called “Jennifer’s Law.”
The bill expanded the definition of domestic violence to include coercive control. The bill was named for Jennifer Magnano, killed by her husband in front of her children, and Jennifer Farber-Dulos, presumed dead after she went missing in Mary 2019. Her estranged husband Fotis was charged with murder in connection to her disappearance and later took his life in January 2020.
And, after years of back and forth, the Connecticut legislature finally made marijuana legal for recreational use. There was Republican opposition to the legalization, but the bill passed on June 17 and was signed a week later into law by Lamont. Connecticut is the 19th state to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
While residents 21 years and older can legally have 1.5 ounces of marijuana and up to 5 ounces will be allowed in a locked container in one's home or your car's trunk or glove box, retail sales are still not allowed at the time of writing this.
Another piece of bi-partisan legislation saw the legalization of sports betting in our state.
Connecticut’s two federally recognized tribes as well as CT Lottery offered in-person as well as online betting, including certain casino games, betting on favorite sports teams. People were able to place their first bets in October.
Lamont is the only Democrat on the 2022 ticket with Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz also running again.
While Stefanowski did not win his 2018 run for governor, he hasn't let that stop him from lacing up his shoes and trying again.
Stefanowski comes from a background in business where he served as chief executive for large companies including General Electric and UBS.
Stefanowski has touted his business background as something Connecticut needs to help working families while curtailing the state’s spending.
Back in 2018, Stefanowski clashed with Lamont regarding tolls as they faced off in debates. The two had also sparred over the topic of taxes. At the time, Stefanowski was proposing he’d phase out the state’s income tax over eight years.
Stefanowski’s plan for Connecticut at the time included reducing taxes and regulations that were “driving out Connecticut businesses.”
He also said he’d get rid of the estate tax and reign in waste fund abuse, saying that the state couldn’t “tax and spend your way into prosperity.”
But where does Stefanowski stand in the 2022 race?
Connecticut in 2022 is a state affected by pandemic-related issues, including the nationwide issue of rising inflation.
Stefanowski’s proposal to fight inflation and provide relief to families includes cutting the sales tax, suspending the state taxes on gas and diesel, and other taxes that he said affect small businesses and restaurants.
Regarding abortion rights, the Republican said that he would “continue to support Connecticut’s state law, which has codified a woman’s right to choose, with an appropriate ban on late-term abortion.”
Stefanowski also takes issue with Lamont’s “extreme position” that parents do not need to be notified if their child is seeking an abortion and would look to support a mandatory notification to parents for girls under sixteen years old.
“Further, under no circumstances will I as Governor attempt to change the existing law. A woman’s right to choose has been, is, and will remain codified in Connecticut State Law, including Connecticut’s ban on late-term abortions – except in the case where the mother’s health is at risk,” Stefanowski said in a statement when the Supreme Court’s drafted decision on Roe v. Wade was leaked in May.
Other issues that Stefanowski outlined that he wanted to tackle include helping Connecticut veterans. Stefanowski said he is looking to work with federal officials to help veterans seek healthcare outside of the VA hospital system in underserved areas.
Stefanowski also promised that his administration would work with the private sector to encourage more veterans to get hired, saying veterans are often discriminated against in the job market due to multiple moves and gaps in employment. No specific detailed plans were announced at this time.
Accountability also is at the forefront of the Stefanowski campaign. He is pushing to strengthen ethics laws and restore funding and staff to the state contracting review board. He also pushes for tax transparency from candidates and to eliminate political perks.
You can read more about Stefanowski’s plans and issues on his website.
Stefanowski's running mate is State Rep. Laura Devlin (Fairfield, Trumbull).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Jennifer Glatz is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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