HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Ned Lamont ranks as the fifth most unpopular governor in the United States according to an April poll from Morning Consult, but Democratic legislators give him a report card worth hanging on his fridge.
“I am going to give him an A+,” Democratic Majority Leader Matt Ritter said. “When you get a call from the governor saying, ‘Hey can you stop by? I’ve got to chat with you about something’ — It’s really great having a partnership like that.”
Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz wasn’t quite as generous. He gave Lamont a B+ but said the first-term governor was well above average.
“For a first-term governor coming into legislative process, I’m telling you, average is a C,” Aresimowicz said. “They excelled in a lot of areas.”
The legislative session ends tonight at midnight and Aresimowicz speculated that Lamont will visit the House chamber, when Aresimowicz and legislators from both sides of the aisle will be able to give him a final grade. Both legislators said they respected the governor because of his flexibility and willingness have open, meaningful conversations.
“Lamont really did always have the open-door policy,” Aresimowicz said. “He was great and it was deep discussions — characterized by some that you would just stop by and say ‘Hi,’ but that’s not what I saw.”
Instead, Aresimowicz said he sees Lamont as a governor who is more than just an ideologue stuck on his campaign promises. Aresimowicz referenced Lamont’s reversal on tolls as a strength. He said Lamont’s willingness to research and make an informed decision in the state’s best interest was admirable.
“He looked at it and he changed course because it was that important and the problem was that severe,” Aresimowicz said. “I give him an incredible amount of respect for that, more so than any other political leader that I’ve come across in my career.”
On the campaign trail, Lamont promised trucks-only tolls, but after consulting with the state Department of Transportation and reviewing the state’s finances, he proposed tolls on cars as well. This issue was not resolved this session, but could be addressed in a special session this summer.
Bob Stefanowski, Lamont’s Republican opponent, remains an outspoken, anti-toll advocate and is one of the main critics of Lamont’s reversal. Aresimowicz said that criticism was “not fair.”
“He’s being criticized for it and I think that is absolutely not fair, but if you’re going to come into office and be an ideologue and only do what you promised, you are not being an effective leader,” Aresimowicz said.
Ritter said Lamont’s flexibility and willingness to talk across the aisle to get things done is what he admires most.
“I know he calls Republicans, too, and what I like most about him is there is a willingness to engage and a flexibility,” Ritter said. “Sometimes governors don’t always think that they have to be flexible, but he understands it helps and a lot of stuff got done this year because of that flexibility.”
Aresimowicz was also complimentary of Lamont’s staff, especially General Counsel Robert Clark, who helped to resolve a lingering lawsuit over the provider tax with the Connecticut Hospital Association.
“That was something that eluded the previous administration and the legislature for eight years,” Aresimowicz said of the negotiations. “That will be looked at as bringing stability to the state of Connecticut.”