Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Bob Stefanowski in December at the Society Room in Hartford (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT— The voting record – or rather lack of – might be an issue for one of the Republican candidates for governor.

Bob Stefanowski of Madison, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, hasn’t voted for 16 years, according to records from the Registrar of Voters office in Madison.

That means he didn’t vote in the 2016 presidential election. He did vote in the Nov. 7, 2017 municipal election, but before that he hadn’t voted in his hometown since Nov. 5, 2001.

Stefanowski’s explanation?

“I worked in London for eight years and two years in Philadelphia,” he said. “I should have mailed in an absentee ballot.”

Stefanowski, who hasn’t participated in the first two debates sponsored by the Republican Party, is casting himself as “a political outsider” and as someone who is better suited at dealing with the state’s fiscal woes.

“Like a lot of other people who have been on the outside, we’ve seen what a mess the career politicians have made of Connecticut and we’re getting involved now,” Stefanowski said. “We’ve got to turn this around before it is too late, and I am the only gubernatorial candidate with a detailed economic plan to do it.”

Stefanowski, 55, is the former president and CEO of General Electric Corporate Financial Services in Europe, CFO at UBS from 2013 to 2015 and also worked at the financial services firm DFC Global.

He recently used his campaign funds to pay Arthur Laffer, an economist who rose to prominence during the Reagan administration, $50,000 for help developing a plan to solve Connecticut’s fiscal situation. In addition, Stefanowski, who said he’s been friends with Laffer for years, paid him $25,000, or $5,000 per event to help the candidate roll out the plan at a series of meetings with Republicans in December.

In addition to not voting, Stefanowski was also registered as a Democrat in his hometown until July 27, 2017 when he changed his registration and announced his candidacy for governor.

“I’ve been a Republican all my life except for a few months,” Stefanowski said in a statement. “A lot of Republicans like Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump and our own Larry Kudlow were Democrats. I’m a Republican, but I’m a political outsider, and like a lot of people I’m really upset at what the career politicians have done to Connecticut.”

One of those bothered by Stefanowski both switching parties to run for governor, and his history of not voting, is former Trumbull Mayor Tim Herbst, who is also seeking the Republican nomination for governor.

“Republican primary voters need to know which of the candidates they can trust to win in November and deliver fundamental change to Hartford,” Herbst said. “How can candidates who’ve never had the back of Republican candidates and voters in the past, either because they didn’t vote or donated to Democrats, possibly expect GOP primary voters to trust them to be our standard bearer in 2018?”

Herbst said it should leave a “serious question mark for primary voters,” who want to see a Republican in the governor’s office.

Republican Party Chairman JR Romano said, “Ultimately it will be the Republican delegates at the convention that will decide whether Bob’s voting record is an issue or not.”

Romano is walking a fine line as chairman trying to stay neutral in the lead up to the convention and the primary.

“We have a very diverse group of candidates running and our delegates will have a lot of options,” Romano said. “They will be taking a lot of things into consideration and whether Bob has to answer questions on that issue will be seen.”

Besides Stefanowski and Herbst, other Republican candidates for governor include Peter Lumaj, Mike Handler, Steve Obsitnik, Toni Boucher, David Walker, Prasad Srinivasan, Mark Boughton, Mark Lauretti, and David Stemerman.

The third Republican gubernatorial debate is scheduled for 6 p.m., Feb. 21 at Notre Dame High School in West Haven.

Christine Stuart contributed to this story.