HARTFORD, CT — David Stemerman, the Republican who launched a hedge fund in 2008 after moving his family to Connecticut, doesn’t want to live anywhere else.
Stemerman, who announced his campaign for governor Monday outside GE’s former headquarters in Fairfield, said his 9-year-old son recently asked him where he would live if he could live anywhere.
“Right here,” said Stemerman, who lives in Greenwich with his wife, Joline, and five children.
As the founder Conatus — a multi-billion-dollar global investment firm — Stemerman said he’s ready for a new challenge.
“Our state has tremendous problems,” Stemerman said.
He said they have to save Connecticut from a financial crisis that’s threatening every individual and business. He believes an outsider, someone without any political experience, will be necessary to get that done.
“It will take some very fresh ideas and out-of-the-box thinking in order to create a sustainable budget,” Stemerman said.
He said what’s lacking as part of the debate is anyone who can put forward a plan to get the state going again. Stemerman believes he is the one with that plan.
Stemerman, who has contributed $1.8 million of his own money toward his effort, has no government experience and has never tried to run for public office in the past. He is one of 12 candidates vying for the Republican nomination.
Stemerman said he managed a staff of 30 at Conatus, but is more than capable of working with 187 lawmakers to win support for his ideas.
He’s spent the last 20 years making investments in companies all over the world and one thing he’s come to understand is “competitive advantage.” He said Connecticut has squandered its competitive advantages and that’s why GE left and why companies outgrowing their space in New York City are not looking to Connecticut to expand.
GE relocated its headquarters from its suburban Fairfield headquarters to Boston, Massachusetts in 2016 after being offered a $150 million incentive package.
Stemerman said GE left because of the “instability in Connecticut’s finances,” and the areas that used to be advantages became weaknesses, such as the location.
“We have trains that are slower today than they were in the 1970s,” Stemerman said. “We have the most congested highways in the country, there is no significant commercial airport anywhere near Fairfield.”
Stemerman said Connecticut’s transportation system is another problem the state will have to address in order to improve its competitiveness.
He did not say whether he would support a gas tax increase. He said he’s heard the other Republicans candidates oppose tolls, but he has yet to hear a solution to the problem.
He said his strength is in attracting capital and he would form private-public partnerships and allow private companies to have a stake in public projects from highway improvements to airports.
He said he plans to focus on three areas of competitiveness: location, the quality of our schools and highly skilled workers, and taxes.
“We used to be lower tax, and a lower cost place to do business and to live,” Stemerman said.
He said that’s what attracted him to Connecticut and why he started his business in the Nutmeg state.
“It was literally the best place in the country to live, work and raise a family,” he added.
Stemerman’s campaign for governor is an attempt to bring Connecticut back to that place and restore confidence in government.
He said they’re going to have to make changes to state employee pensions, which are funded at 36 percent. He said if a company funded its pensions at 36 percent then the company would be in bankruptcy and the business would be restructured.
“The state employees are not going to receive these benefits,” Stemerman said. “What we need to do is restructure them and come to a fresh, new agreement that is for what the state employees can receive.”
He said they have to get the taxpayers out from “guaranteeing pension and health care benefits.” He declined for the moment to say what he would replace the full faith and credit of the state with. He said that proposal will be unveiled in the future.
Stemerman had been sort of a recluse by campaign standards until Monday when he officially launched his campaign and traveled the state to do interviews with print and television reporters.
He has been talking to Republican Town Committees trying to woo the 1,200 delegates to the convention in May. But it’s possible he will seek to gain ballot access by collecting more than 9,600 signatures from registered Republican voters.
Stemerman, who sat out the first three Republican debates, said he planned to attend the debate Wednesday at Saxe Middle School in New Canaan.
Since winding down his company he’s been busy building a campaign team.