Gov. Ned Lamont chats with young residents in Hartford. Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

A day after Connecticut Republicans nominated a Trump-backed candidate in the state’s U.S. Senate race, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said the primary results put the former president back on the ballot in the coming November election.

Lamont, who is competing for re-election against his 2018 rival Bob Stefanowski, staged a Wednesday morning press conference on the brick-lined pedestrian mall of Hartford’s Pratt Street corridor. He was eager to discuss GOP fund-raiser Leora Levy’s Tuesday night upset, in which the Donald Trump-endorsed candidate soundly defeated moderate favorite Themis Klarides for the nomination to run against two-term Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

“I was shocked,” Lamont said. “I didn’t think it was going to happen here in Connecticut.”

“I think loud and clear, Donald Trump is on the ballot. Donald Trump, Bob Stefanowski and Leora Levy are like this and I was struck … as I was just watching last night, it’s certainly not your father’s Republican party any longer,” he said.

Trump intervened late in the primary race, after Republican convention delegates endorsed Klarides, a centrist and fiscal conservative who led the party’s GOP caucus in the state House for six years. Last week, he endorsed Levy and spoke on her behalf in a telephone rally the night before the primary race.

Levy thanked the former president in her televised acceptance speech Tuesday night, saying in comments directed at Trump, “I will not let you down.”

Lamont fixated on the line during Wednesday’s press conference, wondering aloud whether the comments pertained to enacting restrictions on abortion rights and other issues. 

“When she said ‘I won’t let you down,’ did she mean when it comes to gay rights? when it comes to contraception? when it comes to that next supreme court justice? I won’t let you down?” Lamont said.

Although his opponent has largely taken socially moderate positions in this year’s rematch, Lamont reminded reporters that Stefanowski had donated $5,800 to Levy’s campaign and a lesser amount to the campaign of Peter Lumaj, another anti-abortion candidate, while declining to donate to Klarides, who has supported legal abortion. 

Klarides had considered challenging Stefanowski in a Republican primary for governor, but instead opted to run for U.S. Senate. 

In a statement, Stefanowski congratulated primary winners and made no direct mention of Trump. He did mention current President Joe Biden, who he claimed had caused current inflation rates, as a good friend of Lamont’s.

“Expect Governor Lamont to continue to do what he did this morning, put politics over people, focusing on imaginary election ballots rather than the person in Connecticut who can’t afford to buy groceries today,” Stefanowski said. 

Stefanowski said he planned to continue to support police officers and return “power back to parents to raise their kids as they see fit.”

Gov. Ned Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Lamont told reporters he would try to win the support of independent voters and moderate Republicans who feel left behind by the divisive politics of Trump, which he said had been embraced by the state Republican party.  

“This is a new Republican party, I think they’re leaving a lot of the moderates, leaving a lot of the independents, leaving a lot of the folks who believe in core Connecticut values by the wayside and we’re not going to let that happen,” Lamont said.

Asked whether he would seek an endorsement from Biden, Lamont said he supported the president but stopped short of indicating he would actively pursue an endorsement. 

“If it’s a choice between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, I’m going to be with Joe Biden every day,” Lamont said. 

“Look, I’m a supporter of Joe Biden. I was four years ago and I am today. I also am a Connecticut guy and I don’t care about a lot of out-of-towners coming in. If the president of the United States wants to come, I welcome him,” Lamont said.