Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie photo
Bob Stefanowski, Republican candidate for governor speaks at the Prescott Bush dinner (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie photo)

HARTFORD, CT — Republican Bob Stefanowski is taking a page from Linda McMahon’s playbook by creating a women’s coalition.

Stefanowski’s campaign announced a women’s coalition on Monday called Connecticut Women for Change. The group was founded by campaign finance chair Leora Levy, Stefanowski’s wife, Amy Stefanowski, and Republican strategist Noelle Nikpour, who has been paid $30,000 by the campaign. It has a “membership that cuts across the political and economic spectrum,” according to the campaign press release.

McMahon’s strategy in running for the U.S. Senate in 2012 was to focus on women and building a coalition of female support worked for a while. She stayed even with, or even a little ahead of her Democratic opponent Chris Murphy in polls into Labor Day, propelled by improved ratings among female voters.

Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie photo
Amy Stefanowski watches her husband speak at the Prescott Bush dinner (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie photo)

But by late October, women were favoring Murphy by an astonishing 18-point margin in a UConn poll, and by 14 points in the final Quinnipiac University poll.

That was 2012. Today, like McMahon, Stefanowski has a substantial gender gap he has to overcome if he expects to win the election.

The Quinnipiac University poll at the end of August found that in a four-way race that includes Oz Griebel and Libertarian Rod Handscomb, the Democratic Party’s nominee, Ned Lamont, leads Stefanowski 50 to 27 percent among women. Men are divided with 40 percent for Lamont and 39 percent for Stefanowski.

A Sacred Heart University poll found a similar gender gap.

In the Sacred Heart poll, slightly more than 50 percent of female voters supported Lamont compared to 28.5 percent of female voters who supported Stefanowski. However, the poll also found 43.4 percent of male voters preferred Stefanowski and 37.8 percent of male voters preferred Lamont.

Stefanowski has largely avoided speaking about social issues and has focused his platform strictly on cutting taxes.

The tax cutting platform is what the campaign is using to appeal to female and male voters alike.

“His plan to bring real economic growth back to our state by reducing taxes for all and cutting unnecessary regulations will bring new business to Connecticut and empower existing companies to grow and create jobs,” Levy said in a statement. “While Ned Lamont seems content to continue the very policies that got us here in the first place, Bob has made it clear he plans to enact the change we so desperately need. I am pleased to lead this coalition of strong women supporting his campaign for governor.”

There are outside forces at play this year too that weren’t at play in 2012.

President Donald Trump, who has drawn enormous amounts of criticism over his statements regarding women, may be galvanizing women against Republican candidates this year.

“Bob Stefanowski and Donald Trump are one in the same when it comes to issues that disproportionately impact women,” Lacey Rose, Lamont’s communications director, said. “Whether it’s opposing the ACA, refusing to protect choice and women’s healthcare, proposing a scheme that will cut funds for child care and schools, or eliminating the minimum wage, Bob is about Trump values—not Connecticut values.”

Lamont also has a group of women supporting his candidacy.

The group called “Women for Ned” is meeting Oct. 6 in Enfield for a meet and greet with the candidate.