Gov. Ned Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz chat with young locals in Madison Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

MADISON – The release of state funding for a local road and sidewalk project was reason enough for Gov. Ned Lamont to make a Wednesday election campaign season stop in Madison, the hometown of his Republican opponent, where he ran into a familiar face.

The governor and his entourage of Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, local legislators, and First Selectwoman Peggy Lyons were on the back half of a brisk afternoon walking tour when Amy Stefanowski, wife of Lamont’s two-time rival Bob Stefanowski, greeted him from the door of Robertson Madison, a women’s clothing shop.

Lamont raised his hand in a wave. “Hey, Amy Stefanowski, how are you?”

“Don’t tell Bob where you found me,” she joked before ducking her head back into the clothing boutique.

“Small town,” Lamont remarked later. “You never know who you’re going to run into.”

The brief, friendly encounter highlighted the governor’s presence in his opponent’s backyard at the height of a campaign season in which the two candidates rarely seem to cross paths.

In September, Lamont and Stefanowski participated in a debate, along with Independent Party candidate Rob Hotaling. Another debate is planned for Nov. 1, but Lamont passed on other debate invitations from various media outlets.

Instead, the two candidates have often fielded questions and made stump speeches at the same forums in different time slots. On Tuesday, when Stefanowski hung around near the entrance of one such event, Lamont opted to use a “more peaceful,” alternate entrance.

And while the governor was touring Madison, Stefanowski was in Mashantucket at the Foxwoods Resort Casino delivering remarks to the Police Officers Association of Connecticut. Lamont planned to address the same crowd Wednesday, just a few hours later.

The official reason for the governor’s trip was to tout more than $1 million in state funds to help complete an ongoing project to revitalize the town’s business district through street and sidewalk improvements.

But Lamont, wearing a baseball cap adorned with Madison’s town crest, also rubbed elbows with some of the locals. He greeted a young girl who recognized him from campaign commercials she’d seen while trying to watch Youtube videos.

“‘I’m Ned Lamont and I approve this message,’” the governor said, pantomiming his own ads. “Don’t worry, it should let up in three weeks or so,” he told her.

Asked by a reporter to delineate the difference between an official stop and a campaign tour so close to an election, Lamont laughed and confessed he had “no idea.”

“I don’t know, aren’t I doing the same thing I always do?” he said. “It’s just three weeks before an election so maybe it takes on a different flavor.”

And when the tour happens to be in his opponent’s home town?

“I get a kick out of that – No, when I go to fairs, I always love going to the Republican booth as well as the Democratic booth. You come to Madison, we’ve got really great, positive energy here. There’s a few Democrats as well as right-thinking Republicans here,” he said. “I love coming here. What a beautiful town.”

In a statement, Sarah Clark, Stefanowski’s campaign spokeswoman, said the Republican candidate had been busy during the visit hearing from police officers.

“We’re sorry to have missed the Governor’s visit to talk about the already-approved sidewalk funding via state bonds,” Clark said. “Bob Stefanowski is currently meeting with police officers to talk about the crisis-level working conditions of our law enforcement – crippling staff shortages, lack of government support, and legal protections while they try to protect the public.”