STAMFORD, CT — Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski said he feels a sense of responsibility in taking over the reins of the Republican Party even though he didn’t necessarily take the traditional route to the nomination.
Stefanowski told a group of 380 Republicans Thursday that it might be less than 40 days before the election, but they’ve already won because the discussion during the first three debates as gone from his Democratic opponent saying he will raise taxes to a contest about “who is the better tax cutter.”
“There is no way over the next 40 days that I’m going to lose this election to Ned Lamont,” Stefanowski told a cheering crowd gathered for the party’s largest fundraiser of the year.
Stefanowski said 99 people out of 100 will tell you Republicans are better at cutting taxes than Democrats.
Stefanowski said on average 80 people a day are leaving the state, but he hasn’t talked to anyone who wants to leave because they don’t like it here.
“The only answer you get is we hate to leave, but we can’t afford to stay,” Stefanowski said.
He said he’s going to change that by growing the economy and cutting taxes. Stefanowski has said he can eliminate the personal income tax over eight years.
Stefanowski also thanked the Republican Party for backing him. Stefanowski petitioned his way onto the ballot, didn’t participate in the convention, and has not otherwise been involved before announcing his candidacy a year ago. Stefanowski was gracious and thanked his Republican competitors, David Stemerman, Peter Lumaj, David Walker, and Tim Herbst. Herbst has been helping him with debate prep.
Lumaj, Walker, and Steve Obsitnik were in attendance, but Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who was the favorite to win the Republican primary, was not.
But Stefanowski is running as more than a Republican. He also won the Independent Party’s endorsement.
He said what that means is that there are a lot of Democrats out there who can’t bring themselves to the “R line, but they will be willing to bring themselves to the I line and that’s going to put us over the top in this election.”
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, who headlined the Prescott Bush dinner, said his state applied business principles to government and it’s working despite the critics who say business is not a government.
“You have to have a vision, you have to evangelize the vision, you have to account for the results,” Ricketts said.
He said that’s why Stefanowski, a former business executive, will be successful because he understands these business principles.
Ricketts is the son of TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts and the brother of Thomas Ricketts, owner of the Chicago Cubs. Pete Ricketts said they’ve applied the same principles to the Chicago Cubs.
Ricketts said he heard Connecticut has some budget problems. He said before he took over as governor of Nebraska in 2014 the budget was growing at a rate of 6 percent a year.
“There’s no silver bullet here. You just got to cut spending,” Ricketts said.
Stefanowski has declined to say where he will cut spending to balance a two-year, $4.6 billion budget, but he’s insisted he can cut $1 billion from the budget.
In order to do that he’s going to need the help of the legislature.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, who won the Prescott Bush award, fired up the crowd with a speech about how her caucus, which is five seats away from the majority, has the only woman legislative leader.
She said they also have the most women of any of the four caucuses.
In the past eight years, Republicans have won 35 seats in the House and six seats in the Senate in years where Democrats won races for governor and Congress.
Because of the closeness in the numbers, Klarides said they stopped 17 tax increases because of the tie in the Senate and a four-vote difference in the House.
Klarides is five votes away from being Speaker of the House and that’s how she was introduced by Lawrence Cafero, who was the head of the smallest Republican minority in recent history with 37 members.
Klarides was quick to point out that if Stefanowski doesn’t have a Republican legislature he will have “the four most miserable years of his life.”
Klarides said he will not be able to get anything done if the Democratic Party holds onto its majority.
“This is our times guys,” Klarides said. “Things that need to be done need a Republican legislature and governor.”
She said the message that Republicans need to tell voters is “if you believe Dan Malloy has done a bad job, Democrats in the House and the Senate have done the same bad job.”
She said people often forget that a governor can’t do anything without the legislature. It’s a point she’s made to Stefanowski.
“You are now part of this family Bob and part of a family and a team that’s going to move this state forward in November,” Klarides said.