HARTFORD, CT — Oz Griebel, who petitioned his way onto the ballot and muscled his way into the last four debates, might look gubernatorial but does he actually have a chance of winning?
Independents have won in Connecticut twice in recent years — once in 2006 when former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman ran under the “Connecticut for Lieberman Party” banner, and once in 1990 when Lowell P. Weicker ran and won the governor’s race under the “A Connecticut Party” banner.
Ron Schurin, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut, said in both those instances the third party candidate, both Lieberman and Weicker, became the sort of “de facto Republican nominees” due to the absence of a strong Republican party candidate.
Schurin said he initially saw Griebel, who had sought the Republican Party’s nomination for governor in 2010, as taking votes away from Republican Bob Stefanowski. However, he said “perhaps that’s wrong.”
He said even though Stefanowski won a five-way Republican primary with less than 30 percent of the vote, he has an “anti-tax, anti-government, anti-Malloy” base that’s not going to budge.
Gary Rose, chair of the political science department at Sacred Heart University, also admitted Monday that he might have initially been wrong about where Griebel would draw his support.
“Initially I thought he would pull from Stefanowski, but he might have more of an impact on Lamont’s candidacy,” Rose said.
He said he seems to be more aligned with Lamont than Stefanowski when it comes to public policy.
Rose said it doesn’t surprise him that there’s a street in West Hartford with three houses displaying lawn signs for a Democratic state rep candidate and Griebel.
“He’s not going to win, but I’m comfortable saying he will alter the outcome of the race,” Rose said.
He said Griebel seems to have some momentum and has done well in the debates, but it’s not going to be enough to get elected.
Griebel said the poll numbers are good, but he doesn’t think the poll numbers capture some of the momentum his campaign has gained from the debates.
The last Quinnipiac University poll had Griebel’s support at 11 percent, but a Sacred Heart University poll released Tuesday only had his support at 8.4 percent. The poll has Lamont leading Stefanowski by 3.4 percentage points, which is within the margin of error.
“We’ve said consistently that the only poll that matters is on November 6th,” Chris Cooper, a spokesman for Griebel’s campaign, said Tuesday. “As importantly, this poll does not match up with what we are hearing and seeing and it is also true that polling in recent election cycles has been notoriously inaccurate.”
Griebel said everyone has an obligation to vote, but in exercising that right it’s not someone’s obligation to figure out how their neighbor or their spouse is going to vote.
“You have the responsibility to vote for the best ticket,” Griebel said. “Trying to figure out whether your vote is going to help or hurt one of these other candidates is an inappropriate way of using your responsibility.”
Referring to Lamont and Stefanowski, he said the “wasted vote is wasted on one of them.”
Griebel said that’s because it will guarantee four more years of “divisive politics focused on parties and not on the state.”
“Does anybody really think that Bob Stefanowski can get a single Democrat in the legislature to vote for a reduction, never mind the elimination of the personal income tax?” Griebel asked. “And does anyone think that Lamont could get a single Republican to vote for an increase in the minimum wage?”
“All you’re going to get is the same garbage we’ve had for the last 30,” Griebel said.
He said the largest voting bloc are unaffiliated voters and the last poll showed at least 15 percent of voters had yet to make up their mind.
In the debate last week Griebel and Lamont seemed to team up against Stefanowski, who has been saying in recent weeks that Griebel and Lamont are one in the same.
“I think it’s important to let the voters know that both those guys are more of the same,” Stefanowski said Tuesday. “And I’m for change.”
Stefanowski said Griebel will pull more voters from Lamont than he will from him.
On Tuesday following a forum hosted by retired teachers, Lamont said on the big budget issues he thinks both Griebel and Stefanowski are wrong. He said Griebel wants to use the Rainy Day Fund and not fund the pensions, and Stefanowski won’t say where he will cut the budget to pay for the elimination of the income tax.
“At least Oz’s numbers add up. Bob’s numbers don’t begin to add up,” Lamont said.