November 12, 2018
Editor's Take

CT Republicans push further into irrelevancy

Greg Bordonaro Editor

The Grand Old Party in Connecticut is once again the Grand Out of Power Party.

Nutmeg State Republicans suffered another devastating loss Nov. 6, losing the governor's mansion, ceding power in the Senate and widening a deficit in the House.

Democrats will once again fully control the two major branches of government while the state faces a $4 billion-plus budget deficit over two years. Higher taxes and/or fees will be a predictable outcome, as will a $15 minimum wage and paid family medical leave. At a time when Connecticut was in desperate need of fiscal conservatism, we got a blue wave. Split government would have been better.

So what happened? The Republican party once again proved its irrelevancy and nominated another unappealing gubernatorial candidate.

President Donald Trump played a major role in this election. Even though recent polls found Trump to be more popular than Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the president's boorish behavior and lack of stately leadership energized the Democratic base — and rightfully so — helping lift Connecticut Democrats' chances.

The fact that Bob Stefanowski at times aligned himself with Trump was a strange and off-putting miscalculation by the novice politician. But he had many other shortcomings as well.

His decision to maintain his false promise to eliminate the income tax over eight years hurt his credibility. Any informed voter would know it's essentially impossible, if not irresponsible, to implement such a policy, especially at a time when Connecticut has major debt and long-term liability issues. Stefanowski was either lying about his intentions to sway an uninformed electorate, or he thought his overall message as a tax cutter would resonate in a highly overtaxed state.

It's somewhat understandable he took that stance during the Republican convention and primary, which featured myriad candidates. He needed to find a way to stand out and his pledge to erase the income tax was effective.

But any good politician knows a move to the center on certain issues is usually needed during a general election to appeal to a wider electorate.

Stefanowski refused to do it. He should have backed off the income-tax-repeal pledge and run on a platform to reduce the tax, but not eliminate it. Threatening to cut out 50 percent of the state's revenue, with no realistic plan on how to pay government's bills, is no way to win an election in a dark blue state.

Meantime, his lack of knowledge and interest on other issues, ranging from energy to health care, also made him an overall unimpressive candidate. His lack of access to the media was also misguided because it created resentment among the press corps, whose tone, at times, reflected that. The media sets the narrative on political candidates and Stefanowski left himself open to criticisms.

Finally, his constant negativity on the campaign trail didn't help either. Yes, Connecticut is in rough shape right now, but a leader must point to a brighter future. Too often, he failed to do that.

In spite of those shortcomings, Stefanowski kept the race close. However, current conditions in the state made it ripe for a Republican victory at the top of the ticket (minus the Trump influence, of course).

For the last three election cycles, Republicans nominated millionaire candidates who lacked charisma, weren't all that familiar with state government and didn't fully resonate with the majority of voters.

That playbook is outdated. If Republicans want to shape the future course of Connecticut's near-term history, they must groom informed and civically engaged candidates who can appeal to blue state voters, including those in cities.

And they better start now.

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