Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo
Tim Herbst talks to former Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia at the Republican convention earlier this month (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — He fell short of the Republican Party’s endorsement and believes the other Republican candidates running for governor are afraid to debate him.

Tim Herbst, the former first selectman of Trumbull, challenged his Republican colleagues to 10 debates before the primary.

“When I challenged the rest of the GOP field to 10 debates, I heard only crickets,” Herbst said Tuesday in a letter to the five other candidates who may appear on the ballot Aug. 14.

“That suggests my opponents intend to hide behind their checkbooks or a bold line on the ballot because they have no confidence in their ability to answer tough questions about their record, values or vision for restoring prosperity to Connecticut,” Herbst continued. “Their collective reluctance to debate betrays a lack of confidence and should sow doubt over their ability to win in November.”

Herbst is one of three candidates to automatically qualify for the Aug. 14 primary ballot. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton received the party’s endorsement and Westport businessman Steve Obsitnik received enough delegate support to qualify. There are three others — Bob Stefanowski, David Stemerman, and Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti — who are petitioning their way onto the ballot.

The Connecticut Republican Party scheduled one debate in all of the five congressional districts leading up to the party’s nominating convention earlier this month. But the party has no plans to host any debates before the primary.

“It is no surprise that on the heels of losing the Connecticut GOP convention, and having not yet even apparently completed fundraising, that the Herbst campaign would clumsily try to deploy this time-honored campaign tactic of asking for so many debates in a vain effort to get some sort of recognition,” Marc Dillon, Boughton’s campaign manager, said. “Connecticut needs a proven leader with a track record and temperament to get our state back on track. Mark Boughton will remain focused on bringing his message of fiscal conservatism and pro-economic growth directly to the people of Connecticut.”

Obsitnik’s campaign didn’t respond directly to Herbst’s challenge for 10 debates, but said they welcomed the dialogue with voters.

“With less than 90 days to the August 14th primary, I think we can all agree that Republican voters deserve the chance to meet and hear from all of us,” Obsitnik said. “With this in mind, I propose that we as GOP candidates designate a town or city each week where we can bring in the local media to help moderate a series of debates where we as Republicans engage on the critical issues facing the next governor of Connecticut.”

The Stefanowski, Stemerman, and Lauretti campaigns did not respond or declined requests for comment.

There are already several gubernatorial debates scheduled before the primary.

At 7 p.m., June 11 the Connecticut Association of Realtors will host a debate at the Shubert in New Haven and WFSB Channel 3 will host one at 7 p.m., June 13, in their Rocky Hill studios.

There’s another Republican debate sponsored by the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges at 6 p.m., Aug. 6, at Fairfield University, and a handful more that will include the Democratic gubernatorial candidates, including one on June 7 at the University of Hartford that will be broadcast on CPTV. The Connecticut Technology Council will host a forum starting at 9:30 a.m., June 13, at the Trumbull Marriott, and Trinity College will host a forum on climate change at 6 p.m., July 12. 

It’s unclear if the petitioning candidates will be allowed to participate in all of the debates and forums.

Stefanowski refused to participate in all five of the Republican Party’s debates leading up to the convention. Stemerman participated in the last two and Lauretti participated in four of the five.