Two-time Connecticut gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski had a lot to say about Gov. Ned Lamont, the state’s political climate and New Britain Republican Mayor Erin Stewart, who hinted at a run for governor in 2026.
But, the 61-year-old Madison resident, who narrowly lost to Lamont in 2018 and again in 2022, did not say whether he’d throw his hat in the ring once again for the state’s top seat.
Stefanowski, who has been watching the political landscape from afar and was busy helping Republican candidates in his hometown get elected during the last election cycle, said it’s too early to say whether he’d be a candidate.
He noted that Lamont “is beatable,” but because of his personal wealth and the fact that Connecticut is a deep blue state, it would be difficult for a Republican to win the governorship in 2026, regardless of whether Lamont seeks another term.
Stefanowski, a businessman and consultant, spoke to CT Examiner last week on a variety of topics, from finance and state aid to crime. Stefanowski said he was very concerned about where the state is headed, saying it’s beginning to look like California because of issues related to spending and tax cuts.
“I think he [Lamont] is a decent man and he’s trying, but I don’t think he’s done a good job,” Stefanowski said, adding that Connecticut and other states have been on a “sugar high” from the federal money they’ve received in recent years.
“I think Connecticut, and a lot of other states, seem to be better than they really are,” said Stefanowski. “I think this printing of money in this unlimited spending that Democrats have [used] in fairness, not just in Connecticut but across the country, has masked the real problems.”
He said the Lamont administration had an “opportunity with all this federal money to dramatically transform Connecticut, and all we’ve done is use it to plug a bunch of holes temporarily that are going to resurface once the federal money dries up.”
Specifically, Stefanowski said Connecticut will and, in some cases, has become a lot like California. The country’s largest state, led by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, has come under fire from many Republicans in recent years for what they claim is a state awash in crime, homelessness and fiscal carelessness.
“Keep supporting the policies of Democrats in Connecticut … everything from eliminating gas cars — which I know was taken off the table last week — to some of the spending and taxing,” Stefanowski said. “If you want us to be California, keep supporting the current Democratic policies.”
He also said the state has become complacent, arguing “Connecticut is better than that.”
Stefanowski said it will be hard to defeat Lamont if he runs again, in part because he’s an incumbent. But, he said, “I think a lot of it depends on the national sentiment at the time. I think he’d be very tough to beat but, three years from now, I don’t know where inflation [will be]. Hopefully, Congress does the right thing and starts to rein in this incredible unlimited spending.”
Stefanowski lays some of the blame for his 2022 loss on the sentiment across the country, and on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. That ruling, in effect, overturned the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, which made abortion legal.
Lamont and his supporters ran campaign advertisements questioning Stefanowski’s support for abortion rights. Stefanowski said he supports abortion rights, and that the perception that he didn’t had a negative effect on his quest for governor.
“The second time around, we spent more time in the cities and we actually did much better in Bridgeport, in particular,” Stefanowski said. But, he said, the Democrats nationally “effectively scared people” following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. “It was a very effective tool they used.”
Stefanowski maintains Lamont was not forthright when it came to his views on abortion.
“That’s politics,” Stefanowski said. “It’s [alleged deceptive advertisements] one of the reasons a lot of good people don’t run. Am I disappointed [on the abortion issue and how it played out]? Yeah.”
Both Lamont and Stefanowski poured millions of dollars of their own money into their respective campaigns. Stefanowski, however, claims Lamont had a big money edge.
“He was going to spend $2 for every dollar I spent,” Stefanowski said. “If I spent $30 million, he would have spent $60 million dollars. … It wouldn’t be as important, but when you are running against an incumbent whose great-grandfather worked for J.P. Morgan, that’s a problem.”
Lamont’s great-grandfather, Thomas Lamont, was a banker and a partner at J.P. Morgan & Company.
Stefanowski said he spent upward of 60 percent of his time running for governor raising money.
Asked to comment on Stefanowski’s comments aimed at the governor, Lamont’s chief spokesperson Julia Bergman said in a statement that “Governor Lamont is focused on doing the job that voters overwhelmingly elected him to do just over a year ago, and that is to advance policies that continue to grow Connecticut’s economy and provide opportunities for working families and businesses to make it here. He will continue to work on the issues most important to Connecticut residents, including making health care more affordable and accessible, increasing the availability of housing, and building on historic investments in transportation, education, and the workforce.”
However, Connecticut Democratic Party Chairperson Nancy DiNardo had strong words for Stefanowski.
“This is why Bob has lost two campaigns against Ned Lamont,” DiNardo said Monday. “He’s more interested in parroting MAGA talking points than having a plan or listening to voters.”
Stefanowski declined to name any Republicans who he thought might run or make a good candidate for governor.
“I don’t think it’s fair for me to really comment, but there are a lot of former legislators and people with a business profile [who could run],” he said. “I think you could see some of those people resurface.”
Stewart, a Republican serving her sixth two-year term as mayor of New Britain — where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by about 4-1 — told CT Examiner last month that running for governor would be a “dream job” and hinted strongly that she’d be a candidate.
“I think running for statewide race is dramatically different then running in New Britain,” Stefanowski said about Stewart’s possible run. “She’s won multiple times [for mayor], but a state race is massively different.”
But he said it’s possible for someone like Stewart, who is a fiscal conservative but moderate on social issues, to win in Connecticut.
If Lamont does not run, Stefanowski said, “you are going to see at least 10 to 15 people, in my mind, run. If he runs again, I think the field narrows.”
Stefanowski said crime should be a top issue for whoever runs for governor. He said it’s a mystery to him why crime and public safety haven’t gained the traction he feels they should.
“I’m surprised people aren’t more upset about the rise in crime. Have you seen the amount of carjackings, breaking into parked garages in Fairfield?” Stefanowski asked. “Look at the malls now. They can throw whatever stats they want that supposedly crime is down, but it’s not down. People know it’s not down and they don’t feel safer than they used to.”
Stefanowski said crime was one of the reasons his parents moved his family from New Haven to North Haven.
“People shouldn’t be forced to leave their homes because it’s not safe,” he said.
Stefanowski, also a critic of the state’s Police Accountability Act, has been critical of Lamont’s support for the law, which is aimed at holding officers more accountable for their actions while on duty.
“People [officers] need to be held accountable, I get that,” Stefanowski said. “But the vast majority of law enforcement, they are underappreciated and underpaid. I think we have lost sight of that.”
Stefanowski said any future gubernatorial run would be a “family decision” between himself, his wife Amy and their three daughters.