HARTFORD, CT — Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski made his closing arguments Monday with a note of optimism, telling reporters he expected a “terrific” outcome from Tuesday’s election despite lagging behind incumbent Gov. Ned Lamont in public polling.
Stefanowski and his running mate, Rep. Laura Devlin of Fairfield, were smiling and upbeat during a sunny, mid-morning press conference outside the state Capitol building where they have staged media events almost weekly since late August.
“I do think tomorrow’s going to be a terrific day,” Stefanowski said. “We feel the momentum, we felt it on our bus trips, we felt it over the weekend. The people are ready for change.”
The last-minute statement of confidence was on-message for the candidate who lost to Lamont in 2018 by around 3 percentage points. Throughout this year’s rematch, Stefanowski has often spoken with apparent certainty about what he would do when — not if — he assumes the governorship.
But public, non-partisan polling has yet to capture evidence of the momentum cited by the Madison Republican. A recent Emerson College survey released two weeks ago by WTNH found Lamont leading by 11 points. A day before that it was Quinnipiac University that had the first term Democrat up by 15 points.
On Monday, Stefanowski told reporters to prepare for an upset.
“Get ready for tomorrow,” Stefanowski said. “We’re going to surprise a lot of people.”
So what’s changed since his narrow defeat to Lamont four years ago? During his press conference, Stefanowski touched on a list of themes he’s stressed throughout this year’s campaign.
Connecticut residents no longer feel safe and have concerns about the state’s police accountability policies, he said. Taxpayers want more relief than what’s been provided by Democrats to economic pressures like inflation, he said. Parents feel state policies have restricted their ability to raise their own kids, he said.
“The biggest shift I see … is in moms and dads,” Stefanowski said. “Maybe four years ago, they didn’t like what was happening in Washington, but you know what? They’re more concerned about their own families… They fear losing control of their own kids if this governor wins again.”
To respond to Stefanowski’s remarks, state Democrats brought out Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who is competing in his own campaign for a third term in office against Republican fund-raiser Leora Levy.
Bysiewicz said she and Lamont were excited to run on their record of the last four years, which she called “rock-solid.” Bysiewicz pointed to the state’s fiscal health, which she said transformed from chronic deficits to surpluses under Lamont’s stewardship, a collection of one-time and ongoing tax cuts included in this year’s state budget, as well as roughly $5.8 billion in additional payments on the state’s long-neglected pension funds made in the past couple years.
“We did all that with the backdrop of a global pandemic,” Bysiewicz said. “The governor’s leadership during that time was second to none. Connecticut became one of the safest states in the country due to his calm and decisive leadership. We are very proud of that record.”
For his part, Lamont had a string of events scheduled Monday in Fairfield County, with stops in Westport, Bridgeport, and Waterbury. On Tuesday he is expected to vote in Greenwich before appearing in some more of the state’s biggest cities like Hartford, Stamford, New Haven, and New Britain.
Stefanowski told reporters he expected to do better in those areas this time around, narrowing the traditional Democratic dominance in cities. He estimated he visited Bridgeport more than 100 times since the 2018 election.
“We’re going to do much better in Fairfield County, we’re going to do much better in the cities than we did last time around,” Stefanowski said.