HARTFORD – Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont admits he couldn’t resist tuning in to the Republicans’ nominating convention Friday night to see what his reelection rival Bob Stefanowski had to say about him.
“He said what’s happened in the last four years?” Lamont told a crowd of nearly 2,000 delegates who nominated him by acclamation to run for a second term at Saturday’s Democratic Party convention, held at the Xfinity Theatre concert venue. “Let me tell you, Bob, what’s happened in the last four years.”
Saying “this state was in trouble” when he was elected in 2018, the wealthy Greenwich businessman then ticked off a laundry list of what he sees as some of his major accomplishments in office:
Closing an inherited multi-billion-dollar budget deficit and creating 150,000 jobs. Paying down on the state’s huge pension liability.
Keeping schools and businesses open during the COVID pandemic. Dedicating a historic level of funding for child care. Raising the state’s minimum wage.
“Today, you know where we are? Three straight years of a budget surplus and the biggest tax cut the middle class of this state has ever seen,” Lamont said, his voice rising to a near-shout. “We’re making a difference in people’s lives. We’re making progress. Four years does make a difference, Bob.”
But when it came to the hot-button issue of reproductive rights inflamed by the recent leak of a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion that would limit abortion, Lamont said all he heard at the Republican’s convention was “Crickets. I didn’t hear a darn thing.”
And so the rhetorical battle lines begin to solidify in the rematch battle for the governor’s office that will be decided in November.
Lamont defeated Stefanowski, a semi-retired Madison executive, by about 44,000 votes last time.
Saturday, Lamont also focused on what he called “a lot of different iterations” of Stefanowski that have emerged since their first contest four years ago, especially his fervent pledge to eliminate the state income tax that was abandoned as the campaign progressed.
Lamont cited a statement that Stefanowski made in an interview that his switch on the income tax was made because he “didn’t know what I was getting into,” when he declared that his near-singular issue.
“Well, we knew what you were getting into,” Lamont said. “And that’s why we cast the vote we did,” to defeat him.
Earlier, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz accepted the party’s uncontested nomination after taking a number of swipes of her own at Stefanowski, saying his support of former President Trump during the last election made it seem like “Bob got his degree from Trump University.”
“We’re not done yet,” Bysiewicz said of her and Lamont. “But first, we’ve got to send Bob packin’.”
Lamont said the Republicans’ criticism of him at their convention was evidence that the party is “always knocking” the state.
“Stop bad-mouthing the state of Connecticut. It’s an amazing state. It’s a wonderful state,” Lamont said. “We’ve got the best jobs in the world. We have the best schools. We have parks, we have beaches – it’s a beautiful state. Thousands of people are moving to the state – not the other way around.”
The governor continued his criticism of Republicans while citing the uncontested nomination Friday of fellow Democrat U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
“If that seat goes red, if that seat goes Republican, what happens? They like to shut down government. They like to pack the Supreme Court,” Lamont said to cheers from the crowd. “They like to challenge our constitutional liberties. Don’t let that happen.”
He left the stage as he entered, pumping his fist to Bob Marley’s iconic reggae song ‘Get Up Stand Up’ that has become his signature rally tune.
“I’d like you to get up and stand up – stand up for our state everybody!” Lamont roared as he left. “Let’s get our state moving again.”
Erick Russell, a former vice-chairman of the party who lives in Newtown, handily won the nomination for state Treasurer, receiving more than 47 percent of the delegates.
Two other Treasurer candidates, Karen Dubois-Walton of New Haven and Dita Bhargava of Greenwich, each garnered more than 25 percent of the delegates, comfortably qualifying them to challenge Russell in an August primary if they choose to do so.
In the bid for the nomination for Secretary of the State, Rep. Stephanie Thomas, of Norwalk received 66 percent of the delegates while Sen. Matt Lesser, of Middletown, got 33 percent after three rounds of voting were needed to determine the winner.
Dropping out of the balloting after a second round of voting was Rep. Hilda Santiago, of Meriden; Maritza Bond, of New Haven, and Rep. Josh Elliott, of Hamden.
Receiving the Democrats uncontested nomination for State Comptroller was State Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, who is co-chair of the legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.
Incumbent Attorney General William Tong also was nominated by acclamation to seek a second term.