Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Republicans rally at Pomperaug Regional High School (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

SOUTHBURY, CT — Republicans lost the governor’s seat by a combined 32,000 votes in the last two elections, and they’re not about to let another opportunity escape them in the next 23 days.

But it’s not going to be easy.

Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by a little less than a 2-to-1 ratio, and both parties are outnumbered by unaffiliated voters. According to the Secretary of the State’s office, as of Oct. 10 Connecticut had 780,313 Democratic voters, 457,813 Republican voters, and 862,466 unaffiliated voters.

Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Bob Stefanowski (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski said the “polls are dead even” in a state where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans so “what does that tell you” about their candidate.

An AARP poll of voters over the age of 50 showed Stefanowski up by one point over Democratic nominee Ned Lamont.

But Stefanowski said he’s hearing things on the ground from voters that aren’t necessarily reflected in the polls that give him confidence that he will win on Nov. 6.

Stefanowski said he’s got Democratic voters and independents running up to him telling him they’re going to vote for him.

“You wanna know why?” Stefanowski asked the crowd of more than 200 gathered at Pomperaug Regional High School Saturday morning. “Because they’re tired of 40 years of Democratic rule of this state, they’re tired of eight years of Dan Malloy, and they want a change.”

Stefanowski said he couldn’t have picked a better opponent referring to Ned Lamont.

“We haven’t rolled out half the film yet,” Stefanowski said. “We’ve got him on TV saying he’s going to raise taxes. We’ve got him on TV saying everybody’s gotta be part of the solution. We’ve got him on audio saying he’s going to introduce a statewide auto tax.”

Stefanowski said he’s told he’s doing well in the debates, but “it’s the message.”

The focus of Stefanowski’s campaign has been to eliminate the income tax over a number of years.

Stefanowski has been criticized for not saying how he would pay for eliminating a tax that generates more than half the revenue for the annual state budget.

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who Stefanowski defeated in a five-way primary, said he’s given Stefanowski’s campaign his “roadmap” for how to eliminate the income tax.

Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

Boughton told the crowd that they can’t take the election for granted.

Sen. Joe Markley pointed out that almost 400,000 Republicans didn’t vote in the last two elections.

“We can’t let that happen again,” Markley said. “We are the only people with the power to save the state of Connecticut.”

Boughton said there’s been criticism that there really isn’t a plan to eliminate the state income tax and it’s a hollow campaign pledge.

“Trust me there’s a plan,” Boughton said.

Stefanowski said he’s looked at Boughton’s plan and “there’s some things in there we’ll adopt. There’s some things in there we won’t.”

Last year, Stefanowski paid Art Laffer, Ronald Reagan’s economist, $50,000 to come up with a plan to eliminate the income tax. The 26-page plan calls for the elimination of the tax, but it doesn’t say where spending would be cut in order to make up for the loss of revenue.

Connecticut has a balanced budget amendment and is not allowed to deficit spend like they can in Washington. So for every dollar of revenue that’s cut, there will need to be an equal amount of spending eliminated.

Stefanowski said he’s given examples of where they can cut spending over the last four months. He’s pointed to “waste, fraud, and abuse” without any specificity. He’s also said he can cut 5 to 10 percent from a two-year, $40 billion state budget to fund a tax cut and get the economy moving.

“Do not let them distract you with Washington,” Stefanowski told his supporters.

Stefanowski said he’s running for governor of Connecticut, not Congress.

However, Republican President Donald Trump, who has tarnished the Republican brand for some voters, could, according to polling, impact how voters vote in the governor’s race.

A Quinnipiac University poll released last week found it’s important to 65 percent of likely voters that their candidate shares their opinion about Trump. Stefanowski gave Trump and “A” grade during a Republican primary debate and declined to give him a grade in the last gubernatorial debate.

Some, including House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, believe outgoing Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his eight year tenure will also be on the ballot this year.

Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

Malloy, whose approval rating is around 23 percent, may be unpopular, but Quinnipiac University Poll Director Doug Schwartz believes Trump will have a bigger impact.

“In deciding which candidate to support, President Donald Trump is a more important factor for voters than Gov. Dannel Malloy, although both men appear to be doing damage to their own parties,” Schwartz said.

Boughton warned supporters Saturday not to “nationalize” the race.

“Do not let them distract you with Washington,” Stefanowski added. “Don’t let it happen. I’m not running for Senate. I’m not running for Congress.”

He said his opponent and the Democratic Party wants to talk about anything else but the economy and “the reason is is you cannot argue we should continue what we’ve been doing for the last eight years.”

“We’re gonna win this election,” Stefanowski said. “There is no way we’re not going to win this election.”

He said he can’t even count the number of people who have come up to him and told him that if he doesn’t win this election they are leaving the state of Connecticut.

“This is the most critical election I would argue in the history of the state of Connecticut,” Stefanowski said.

The Connecticut Education Association and AFT Connecticut were critical of the Republican Party’s decision to hold the rally at a public high school.

Representatives of both organizations said eliminating the income tax will require cuts to public education.

“For a political party to hold a rally in a regional school whose communities will suffer under their gubernatorial nominee’s extremist agenda isn’t just the height of hypocrisy,” Jan Hochadel, president of AFT Connecticut said. “By having their under-ticket candidates join him on the stage, it also sends the message that they’ve become the ‘anti-education’ party.”

CEA President Jeff Leake said “Connecticut can’t afford a governor whose plans would devastate our schools, cities, and towns, jeopardizing the future for everyone in Connecticut — students, seniors, and families.”

Stefanowski’s spokesman Kendall Marr said that’s not true.

“Despite Ned’s continued lies, Bob has no plans to cut education,” Marr said. “In fact, Bob is the only candidate in the race with a plan to grow our economy, which will increase the revenue available to fund our priorities, especially education.”

Bob Stefanowski rallies Republicans in Southbury.

Posted by on Saturday, October 13, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: We corrected this story to reflect an accurate ratio of registered voters in each party.