Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Oz Griebel, Ned Lamont and Bob Stefanowski (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

MASHANTUCKET, CT — With the election less than a week away, the three leading gubernatorial candidates avoided negativity Tuesday night during their final debate of the election.

Oz Griebel, who petitioned onto the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate this year but is only polling at 7 percent, appears to be siphoning voters from both Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ned Lamont and Republican nominee Bob Stefanowski, but you wouldn’t know that from watching the debate Tuesday at Foxwoods, where none of the candidates seemed to want to attack each other. The debate was sponsored by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, the Hartford Courant, and WTNH Channel 8.

At one point, when asked whether they would seek a constitutional amendment to allow early voting, Griebel needled Stefanowski for failing to vote for 16 years.

“I’m glad Bob feels so strongly about voting given his track record,” Griebel said.

In response to the question, Stefanowski said early voting “properly verified makes perfect sense. Anything we can do to increase the participation rate would be good.” He went onto say, “I get a sense that people are going to come roaring back to the polls next week.”

CTNewsJunkie was the first news organization to report in January that Stefanowski hadn’t voted for 16 years prior to the 2017 municipal election.

Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Oz Griebel (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

None of the candidates mentioned that in order to allow early voting, voters would have to approve a constitutional amendment. An amendment was on the ballot in 2014 but was rejected by 53 percent of the voters. Had it passed, the amendment would have given the legislature the authority to pass laws that would allow “no excuse” absentee voting, or allowing polls to be open on the Saturday before elections.

The debate was held the same day Quinnipiac University released its latest poll on the election. The poll asked Griebel supporters who their second choice would be and found that 45 percent would go to Lamont and 23 percent would go to Stefanowski if they decided not to vote for Griebel.

Neither Lamont nor Stefanowski said they would ask Griebel to get out of the race based on the recent polling data. But prompted with a question in the post-debate press conference, they said it should be left to Griebel.

“I think Oz is his own man,” Lamont said. “He’s somebody who has been committed to the state for a long time so let him think about what he wants to do.”

Griebel maintained that he’s in the race to win it and anyone who suggests otherwise should “drop dead.”

He said neither Lamont or Stefanowski have presented ideas for how they are going to solve the two-year, $4.6 billion budget deficit that the next governor will face upon arrival in office. Griebel says he would deplete the Rainy Day Fund and not make required pension payments. even though the state would likely face legal consequences for violating a 2008 bond covenant.

In the post-debate press conference, Griebel was critical of both Lamont’s and Stefanowski’s budget plans.

“Zero-based budgeting — give me a break,” Griebel said, referring to Stefanowski’s proposal for cutting spending.

During the debate Griebel said the two-party system does not allow for there to be honest discussions about the budget.

“That’s why we want to make sure we earn your vote on Nov. 6, to make sure we break up the power of this duopoly,” Griebel said.

The argument was convincing enough for the Hartford Courant to endorse him this week.

On the budget, Stefanowski alleged that Lamont would institute a statewide property tax on motor vehicles.

It’s not a new idea. Over the past decade Democratic lawmakers and also former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell have pitched ideas to change how the car tax works.

Stefanowski continues to say that he has Lamont on tape saying he wants to implement a statewide tax on motor vehicles.

What Lamont wants to do is equalize the mill rate on motor vehicles so that a Buick in Greenwich costs the same amount in taxes as a Buick in Hartford.

“To me it’s just fundamentally unfair” that the same vehicle has a different tax bill from one town to the next, Lamont said.

Typically, town leaders like those watching the debate Tuesday don’t appreciate the idea, because they’re concerned that the state would not come through with funds to offset the revenue some towns would lose as a result of the proposition.

Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
CCM members watch (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

In the post-debate spin room, Lamont said he would make towns whole for that lost revenue. He said equalizing the mill rate on vehicles means 80 percent of Connecticut’s taxpayers would see a reduction in their motor vehicle taxes.

Lamont said he appreciated the debate because he thought it gave viewers a sense of who the candidates are as people a little more than the previous debates.

There was a question about whether they supported assisted suicide.

Lamont said it was “not a place I want government intruding.” Stefanowski said it’s a “very personal decision.” Griebel said he needed a better understanding of the legal safeguards that exist before offering an opinion.

Legislation that has been debated but never passed in Connecticut would have allowed terminally ill patients with six months to live access to a lethal dose of medication that they or a family member could administer without criminal consequences.

The candidates were also asked how they’ve given back to the community.

Griebel talked about working with organizations like the United Way, Lamont talked about volunteer teaching at Harding High School in Bridgeport, and Stefanowski said he was on the board of the Cardinal Shehan Center, an educational nonprofit in Bridgeport.

Unlike Lamont, Stefanowski did not release a Schedule A with his tax returns, so it’s unclear how much charitable giving he may have done over the past two years. As an executive for DFC Global and 3i Group before that, Stefanowski spent most of the past decade working in London.

Oz Griebel in the post-debate spin room.

Posted by on Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Ned Lamont in post debate spin room.

Posted by on Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Bob Stefanowski in the post debate spin room

Posted by on Tuesday, October 30, 2018