HARTFORD, CT — In a five-way Republican race, the outsider businessman who spent his own money and avoided interviews with the news media walked away with the Republican nomination and 29 percent of the vote.
Bob Stefanowski of Madison, a former executive at GE and UBS, clinched the Republican Party’s nomination Tuesday and will face the Democratic Party’s nominee, Ned Lamont, in November. Lamont easily defeated Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, who had to petition his way onto the ballot after failing to garner enough support at the convention.
Ron Schurin, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut, said Stefanowski’s campaign is the kind of campaign that works in other parts of the country.
Stefanowski had the support of some millionaires who put their money into a Super PAC and he largely funded his own campaign. Just three days before the primary, Reverge Anselmo, a Connecticut resident and screenwriter, dropped $730,000 into the Super PAC in support of Stefanowski.
For the most part, Stefanowski was able to appeal to a conservative base that doesn’t put much stock in government experience.
Stefanowski and the other two businessmen candidates on the ballot garnered more votes than the two locally elected officials, one of whom was the Republican Party’s nominee.
In a Republican primary “you’re appealing to small group of people who watch Fox News and follow Republican politics,” Schurin said.
Stefanowski will face former cable company executive Ned Lamont in November. The number of candidates may get larger if some independents, like Oz Griebel and his running mate, Monte Frank, make it onto the ballot.
But for the most part, Schurin said, the road to the November election will be much different than the road to the Republican primary.
“For all of governor Malloy’s enemies, this is still a Democratic state,” Schurin said.
Based on the numbers, nearly 70 percent of Republican voters voted for another Republican Tuesday.
The Republican establishment has been slow to embrace Stefanowski, not unlike they were slow to embrace Trump.
“He had a solid grassroots campaign. He had a great message and it resonated with a lot of voters,” Republican Party Chairman JR Romano said of Stefanowski.
He said it’s not the party’s job to put their thumb on the scale for candidates in a party primary.
Stefanowski has also been successful in campaigning around the mainstream media. He has enough money to reach voters with this message or the Republican base no longer pays attention to the mainstream media.
“It pains me to say this, but the conventional mainstream media are not relevant,” Schurin said.
As for Lamont, the Democratic Party’s nominee, “there aren’t a whole lot of people who are enthralled with Ned Lamont,” Schurin said.
He said Lamont will have to work on attracting “intense loyalty and support” over the next few months.
“I just hope we don’t have a campaign like 2014 where they say the other guy’s a bum,” Schurin added.
But that might be wishful thinking since the name calling had already begun.
On Twitter, Lamont called Stefanowski “Bob Trumpowski.” Stefanowski countered with “Ned Malloy.”
Lamont is also largely self-financing his campaign for governor. He’s spent about $2.57 million on the primary, which is slightly less than the $2.9 million Stefanowski spent.
The Democratic and Republican Governors Associations are expected to be spending money in Connecticut this year. About one-third of the gubernatorial seats across the country are open.
The Cook Political Report calls Connecticut’s gubernatorial contest is a “toss up.”