Bob Stefanowski and his father Credit: Courtesy of the campaign ad

In what’s sure to be the first of many TV ad buys before this year’s gubernatorial election, Republican Bob Stefanowski staked out some working class territory, holding court at the counter of a diner and promising to reduce the state sales tax. 

Stefanowski, a former investment banker, who suffered a narrow loss to Gov. Ned Lamont in 2018, is again seeking his party’s nomination. He has so far spent $10 million on his campaign and Tuesday’s $1 million media purchase will fund a series of similar ads, all aimed at positioning Stefanowski as a voice for the middle class in what could shape up as a rematch between two wealthy candidates. 

“I grew up in New Haven. My parents worked hard,” Stefanowski tells fellow diner patrons in some of the TV spots. “I know what it’s like to start with nothing and I think that’s a very important perspective for any leader to have.” 

The commercials also feature footage of Ellis Island as a narrator describes the journey of Stefanowski’s grandparents, who moved to this country and became oyster shuckers. The videos do not mention Lamont by name but paint the state government as detached from working class people. 

“Part of the problem with government right now is they don’t realize what real people are going through,” Stefanowski tells a group of onlookers at one point. 

During the ads Stefanowski proposes to conduct additional audits of state agencies and promises to cut the sales tax as one of his first actions if elected.

At an unrelated event Tuesday, Lamont declined to comment on politics and did not say when he may follow suit and start airing television ads.

“Not in the near term. We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and politics,” Lamont said.

However, State Democratic Party Chair Nancy DiNardo released a statement painting Stefanowski as a right wing extremist. 

“While Governor Lamont provides strong, steady leadership through a once-in-a-century pandemic, continues to deliver record surpluses in our budget, and has our rainy day fund reaching all-time highs – all without tax increases – Bob Stefanowski is far outside of the mainstream of Connecticut, and voters won’t buy what he’s selling,” DiNardo said.