He may have a comfortable lead in the polls just weeks before the November election, but you wouldn’t know it by the full-tilt pace of Gov. Ned Lamont’s press team that fills reporters’ inboxes with a near-daily barrage of releases touting virtually his every move.
And the bulk of the media bombardment is not being waged by Democratic campaign staff paid out of his pocket, but rather by his taxpayer-funded press operation working out of the State Capitol.
Over just a 3-day span last week, Lamont’s office issued 14 press releases and media advisories announcing everything from his dispersal of $70 million in “appreciation bonus payments” to child-care workers, the opening of a Torrington housing complex, and a glowing statement about President Biden’s pardoning of all those federally-convicted of simple possession of marijuana.
His largely self-funded campaign, meanwhile, distributed exactly one, as did the state Democratic Party in support of him.
The state-issued releases all involve Lamont’s official role as governor, but the breadth and tone of the prodigious output is clearly designed to bolster his political messaging as the Nov. 8 election approaches.
His execution of the “power of incumbency” is perhaps old hat to those on the inside.
But most taxpayers and voters will never see this behind-the-scenes version of the political ads that invade their TV viewing to the point of suffocation.
Here’s a sampling of the headlines on more than a dozen releases issued from Oct. 5-7:
“Governor Lamont Announces Connecticut’s ‘Find Your Vibe’ Tourism Campaign Continues Into Fall.”
“Governor Lamont Holds News Conference On Manufacturing In Connecticut.”
“Governor Lamont And Connecticut Airport Authority Announce Aer Lingus Resuming Service At Bradley International Airport Following Pause Due To Covid-19 Pandemic.”
“Governor Lamont Receives Omicron Bivalent Covid-19 Booster And Flu Shot, Encourages Connecticut Residents To Get The Added Protection As Winter Approaches.”
The “free media” overload designed to show Lamont in a favorable light is hardly a new strategy, and has historically been employed by governors and other office holders on both sides of the aisle to boost their reelection bids.
Incumbents are given relatively wide latitude under state laws and ethics codes to create and publicize such events, as long as they can be tied to their official capacity.
And while taxpayer-paid staff are generally forbidden to use state resources to “engage in partisan political activity while on duty,” those lines are routinely blurred and often treated with a wink and a nod by all involved unless it constitutes a blatant violation or prompts a formal complaint.
But Lamont is clearly taking the practice to a new level.
On the flip side, his Republican challenger Bob Stefanowski relies on his small, privately-funded campaign staff to try to counter the sophisticated and relentless efforts of the incumbent.
At this juncture, it’s really been no contest.
During those same three days last week when Lamont’s Capitol staff churned out 14 releases, Stefanowski issued just three.
All were brief advisories notifying media about stops on his 30-town bus tour around the state.
And in contrast to Lamont’s highly-polished releases produced by a staff that includes veterans of the exposure-fixated administration of former Governor Dan Malloy, Stefanowski’s have proven noticeably less savvy.
The state Republican Party sent out zero releases during the 3-day span, although a few days earlier Chairman Ben Proto had distributed one declaring that “Ned Lamont and CT Democrats Have Destroyed Connecticut’s Economy.”
As he scrambles to close the deficit in the polls, Stefanowski regularly receives some degree of media attention, but it seems barely a blip compared to the near-blanket coverage Lamont draws as the sitting governor.
Publicity may not be a direct barometer of what will happen on Election Day, but it appears evident that Stefanowski has a lot of ground to cover to catch up to Lamont on both counts.