Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz during a remote press conference Tuesday

Connecticut Democrats sought Tuesday to highlight Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski’s participation in a Friday night meet-and-greet with a group of Connecticut parents opposed to vaccine mandates.

Stefanowski, a Madison businessman running against Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, was one of several Republican candidates who joined the group Connecticut Residents Against Medical Mandates for a private event at the Crystal Ridge Winery in South Glastonbury on Friday.

CTRAMM was among the groups which formed in opposition to the state legislature’s recent decision to repeal a long-standing religious exemption for childhood vaccine requirements, a step taken in response to a growing number of families opting out of vaccinations. The change was controversial, however, and prompted thousands of protesters at rallies outside the Capitol.

During a Tuesday morning press conference, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz accused Stefanowski of seeking the support of radical groups.

“We’re here to let the people of Connecticut know that Bob is courting extreme groups that espouse ideas that will endanger our public health and we want to call attention to that,” Bysiewicz said. “Leadership is important and using science to keep people safe and using medical knowledge is important.”

In a statement issued through a spokesperson, Stefanowski said he had helped to hand out more than 1.5 million masks during the early days of the pandemic. He accused Lamont of focusing at the time on hiring Sema4, one of four companies formerly contracted by the state to run COVID testing sites and the recipient of investments from a firm co-founded by First Lady Annie Lamont. 

“I don’t mind the daily campaign attacks from Governor Lamont and his Lieutenant Governor because people know they are not true,” Stefanowski said. “I just wish Mr. Lamont would spend less time campaigning and at least some time helping people to get through the highest inflation in 40 years, rising food prices and out of control crime. Connecticut residents would be much better off if he did.”

During the press conference, Democrats anticipated Stefanowski’s reference to his efforts to distribute masks. Bysiewicz suggested he procured masks for frontline workers when it was politically expedient and met with anti-vaccine groups when their support seemed advantageous. 

“The question becomes, which Bob Stefanowski can you trust?” Bysiewicz said. “The one that gives out masks or the one that seeks support from groups that are anti-maskers?”

CTRAMM did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment for this story.