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Bob Stefanowski (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

Six hours before the polls closed Tuesday Madison businessman Bob Stefanowski told a group of supporters in Branford, “I think we are going to win this thing.”

Stefanowski turned out to be a great prognosticator. When the numbers finally were totaled Tuesday night, he’d won the Republican nomination for governor over Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton — the party’s endorsed candidate — and three other challengers by a comfortable margin.

“I think it’s fair to say this campaign has been underestimated from the start,” Stefanowski said as he reached the microphone. “I don’t think anyone would think we’d be standing up here right now.”

None of the Republican establishment thought he would pull it off, said Peter Lumaj, a former candidate for governor who gave his support to Stefanowski, said.

Stefanowski hadn’t voted in 16 years. He registered as a Democrat months before switching back to Republican and announcing his run for governor. He didn’t vote for Republican President Donald Trump because he didn’t vote in 2016. He shunned the Republican nomination process by skipping the convention and collecting signatures of registered Republicans to gain ballot access.

“The Republican establishment is out of touch with reality,” Lumaj said. “We need an outsider with some fortitude and a backbone.”

Bob Stefanowski defies traditional process to clinch republican nomination

Posted by on Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Shortly after voting in his hometown of Madison Tuesday, Stefanowski stopped into his headquarters in nearby Branford just before 2 p.m. to give campaign workers a pep talk. He told them he “thought we are going to win this thing,” and added: “Who would have thought that a year ago?”

Stefanowski had the backing of a Super PAC. Protect Freedom Political Action Committee, a Virginia based PAC that’s spent more than $1 million on four television advertisements and digital media.

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Mark Boughton concedes (ctnewsjunkie photo)

About 10:30 p.m. at the Ponte Club in Waterbury, Boughton, who was trying for the third time to capture the nomination, conceded before a group of supporters who were much louder and boisterous earlier in the evening before the numbers went against their man.

“I would have liked a better outcome,” Boughton said. “It is not an easy thing to stand here and lose an election.”

Boughton said he would back Stefanowski in his November run against Democrat Ned Lamont.

“I want to congratulate Bob Stefanowski on a strong win. In the end it’s about the team. We will stand tall with him,” Boughton said.

Boughton noted that a year ago at this time he had just left a hospital “after facing death” having had a lemon-sized benign tumor removed from his brain at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

“Sure it’s important (losing), but it really doesn’t matter. I’ve got a great city to lead. I’m excited to go to work tomorrow,” Boughton said.

Former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, Westport Businessman Steve Obsitnik, David Stemerman, a former hedge fund founder, also unsuccessfully ran for the Republican nomination.

Chris Peak / New Haven Independent photo
Tim Herbst (Chris Peak / New Haven Independent photo)

In a five-way primary, with 96 percent of the vote in, Stefanowski had 29.3 percent of the vote, or 41,824 votes; Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton had 30,384 votes, or 21.4 percent; David Stemerman had 26,214 votes or 18.3 percent; Tim Herbst 25,035 votes or 17.6 percent; and Steve Obsitnik 19,080 votes or 13.3 percent.

Stemerman and Stefanowski both petitioned their way onto the Republican ballot bypassing the party’s convention process.

Boughton, Herbst, and Obsitnik received enough support at the May convention to automatically earn a spot on the Republican primary ballot.

Stemerman said: “I just got off the phone with Bob Stefanowski to offer him my support as the best chance to fix Connecticut.”

“Thank you to our supporters, to our team and to the people of Connecticut,” Stemerman said. “Let’s unite and save Connecticut.”

Herbst had nothing positive to say about Stefanowski or his other opponents. But he had a lot of positive words for himself, for his staff, and for the stands they took against Connecticut’s Democrats who raised taxes from the governor’s mansion and who kneel during the Pledge of Allegiance.

He had lots of biting words to say about the “eight years of ruinous leadership by Gov. Malloy,” about his “job-crushing” agenda and his attacks on “law-abiding gun owners.”

Douglas Healey / photo
David Stemerman speaks to supporters and volunteers Tuesday night (Douglas Healey / photo)

Stefanowski has vowed to eliminate the state income tax in eight years, among other tax cuts he promises, but hasn’t given any specifics on how he plans to replace the billions of dollars in funding the tax cuts would create, other than saying he believes in zero-based budgeting.

During his afternoon trip to Branford, Stefanowski told supporters: “Let’s go win this thing and then beat the pants off Ned Lamont in the general election.”

Stefanowski 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.

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.

Endorsed Candidates Sweep Underticket Races

On Tuesday, all the party endorsed candidates won their races for lieutenant governor, attorney general, state treasurer, and state comptroller.

State Sen. Joe Markley won the primary for lieutenant governor with about 47.6 percent of the vote in a three-way race with New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart and Darien First Selectwoman Jayme Stevenson.

Markley showed up at Bob Stefanowski’s victory party after the speech, but Stefanowski welcomed his government experience.

“Your knowledge of government and ability to work with the legislature will be invaluable to moving our growth agenda forward,” Stefanowski said.

In the race for attorney general, Sue Hatfield, who lost the endorsement of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League for her agreement with Attorney General George Jepsen on the issue of printing 3D guns, won with 79 percent of the vote over former Redding state Rep. John Shaban. Shaban, who showed up at Stefanowski’s victory party Tuesday, promised to help Hatfield in the general election.

In the race for the open state Treasurer’s seat, Thad Gray bested Sen. Art Linares with 56 percent of the vote.

In the Republican primary for state Comptroller, Seymour First Selectman Kurt Miller, who was at a fundraising disadvantage, bested Mark Greenberg with 52.6 percent of the vote.

Christopher Peak contributed to this story.