HARTFORD, CT — (Updated 4 p.m.) The seven gubernatorial candidates, five Republicans and two Democrats, have been hogging the spotlight, but the candidates for lieutenant governor will get a chance to debate this week.
The three Republican candidates: Darien First Selectwoman Jayme Stevenson, Sen. Joe Markley, and New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart will meet for their first debate Wednesday, 8:30 p.m., at NBC 30 studios in West Hartford. The two Democratic candidates: Susan Bysiewicz and Eva Bermudez Zimmerman, will meet for their first debate Thursday at 8:30 p.m. at the same television station.
At a Capitol press conference Tuesday, Stevenson said she was the only one to confirm her attendance at the debate Monday morning and by the afternoon Stewart and Markley had also confirmed their attendance.
Stevenson said she wants to have three debates.
She quipped that it sometimes feels like there’s one debate a day for the gubernatorial candidates, but there isn’t.
“Given the importance of the lieutenant governor’s position I think that the voters of Connecticut deserve to see us more than once,” Stevenson said.
She said the lieutenant governor candidate should be chosen with the same rigor as the gubernatorial candidate.
“Experience, electability and temperament all matter,” Stevenson said.
She described Markley as “fringy” and Stewart as too “liberal.”
Markley, who was endorsed by the Republican Party at their May convention, said Stevenson’s press conference seemed a little “hysterical” for someone who no one has said “no to.”
He said it’s ridiculous to demand more debates when no debates have been scheduled.
There’s less than two weeks left before the Aug. 14 primary. Markley said at this point it shouldn’t take a debate for voters to get to know a candidate.
Markley has largely ignored Stevenson and focused his attention on Stewart.
Markley doesn’t believe he’s focused on either of his opponents.
Shortly after losing the Republican Party’s endorsement to Markley, Stewart said “If we want to change the perception the Republican Party is going to put forward to the state of Connecticut, we can’t have two older men on the ticket.”
Markley told the New Haven Independent that’s “identity politics.”
“If Erin Stewart says I shouldn’t be on the ticket because I’m a white man, someone else would be entitled to tell her, ‘You shouldn’t be on the ticket because you’re a white woman.’”
Jodi Latina, who works for Stewart attended Stevenson’s press conference Tuesday, and said they’re excited to be debating Wednesday.
As for more debates that will depend on news organizations that want to organize them.
Both Stewart and Stevenson have criticized Markley for his votes mostly against legislation that protects women from rape on college campuses and for his Don Quixote- like quest to remove fluoride from water.
Asked how she plans to win if her and Stewart are splitting the anti-Markley vote, Stevenson said it’s about showing the voters who has the most electability and proven track record in both the private and public sector.
She said Connecticut voters are smart and they’ll be able to sort out who is the most electable once they see the three of them in a debate.
Meanwhile, Bermudez Zimmerman was on the other side of the Legislative Office Building touting her support from 21 Democratic lawmakers, at the same time as she tried to stay neutral in other candidates’ primaries.
She has declined to say whether she favors Ned Lamont or Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim as her party’s gubernatorial candidate.
“I’m not going to sway more support or my opinion on a voter. That’s what August 14th is about,” Bermudez Zimmerman said.
Earlier this week, Bysiewicz released her first television commercial touting her work with small businesses.
Like Stewart, Bysiewicz had been running for governor before dropping down to the lieutenant governor race.