With just days to go before the election on Nov. 8, Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski is in the final push to convince Connecticut voters to choose him in the race for governor. He held an exclusive one-on-one interview with The Spectrum.
Stefanowski grew up in New Haven and is a graduate of Fairfield University and Cornell. He then went on to work in Hartford, eventually becoming a business executive at General Electric.
If elected, Stefanowski said his first 100 days in office would be spent giving his constituents some immediate relief. He would repeal the gas tax set to go back into effect as of Dec. 1, repeal the highway truck tax set to go in effect Jan. 1, and repeal the existing state food tax. In addition, Stefanowski said he would reinforce the state police force.
“People are really struggling to pay utility bills, to pay taxes, to buy groceries, to fill their oil tank and we’re in a situation where we’ve got $6 billion in Hartford at the capital that’s not being used,” said Stefanowski. “I think we need to give some of that back right away to take some pressure off people.”
Stefanowski is running on a plan to use Connecticut’s budget surplus, claiming that the surplus is in excess of $6 billion. According to the state comptroller in a report to WTNH, Connecticut only has $3.3 billion in the state’s “rainy day fund.”
Stefanowski named his plan “Connecticut F.I.R.S.T.,” which he said stands for “fight inflation, reduce state taxes.”
“There’s a lot of nuisance tax in Connecticut, that in and of themselves are not massive, but if you start to add them up, that’s real money,” he said.
Stefanowski said he believes Connecticut’s cities need to be revitalized to make a better environment for young people. That revitalization includes investing in technology.
“I think we’re behind in technology, and there’s no reason we can’t create the kind of environment that Boston and New York have. We have all the same assets,” he said.
Although Stefanowski does not have a set plan in place to help Connecticut students pay off student loan debt, his strategy is to wait and see how President Biden’s plan plays out.
“We can’t have kids getting out of school with crushing levels of debt,” he said. “If there’s a fair way to take some pressure off kids and not having to graduate with a ton of debt, I would absolutely look at that.”
When it comes to incentivizing Connecticut students to stay in the state after graduation, Stefanowski emphasized his plan on home ownership and the current state of the Connecticut workforce.
“I do think we should make it easier for young people to buy a house,” he said. “When and if you are willing to settle down, I think we should provide a reasonable opportunity for you to do that in Connecticut.”
“Mid-sized businesses are really anxious to hire young people, and we have a 4% unemployment rate—that’s high,” said Stefanowski. “We’ve got to get our workforce better situated for the jobs that are there.”
Another key issue in the race for governor has become the right to an abortion following the Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade. Governor Lamont expanded Connecticut’s existing law on the right to an abortion, signing the “Safe Harbor” bill into effect. Stefanowski claimed that there has been misinformation when it comes to his stance.
“The governor’s been putting on some ads that just are wrong,” said Stefanowski. “Roe v. Wade is codified under Connecticut state law and it’s simply not going to change under my administration. I support a woman’s right to choose.”
In contrast to his opponent, Stefanowski believes that there should be parental notification for minors seeking an abortion under the age of 16.
“I do think there should be, not parental consent, but parental notification,” he said. “Unless there’s a situation where the young person can’t talk to their parents.”
“I think when you’re in a state like ours and you need consent, never mind notification, for a tattoo,” said Stefanowski, “a kid should really be able to talk to their parents about that.”
In past television interviews, Stefanowski offered a conflicting statement on further limits to an abortion. Connecticut law states that abortion is legal up until the point of fetal viability, generally considered to be 24 weeks. Stefanowski clarified his stance.
“We’re going to keep it where it is. I think Connecticut law is at the right spot. We’re not going to change it,” he said.
Stefanowski’s running mate Rep. Laura Devlin was one of seven Republicans to vote in favor of the “Safe Harbor” bill. Stefanowski questions whether he would have voted for it himself.
“I don’t know whether I would have voted for it or not,” he said. “But I’m not in favor of changing it. It was voted by the majority of the legislature. I do see the reason for it, and we’re going to leave it where it is.”
This is not the first time that Stefanowski and Lamont have gone head-to-head in the race for Governor, first facing off in 2018. During that year, Stefanowski received an endorsement from then President Donald Trump. This time around he has not sought an endorsement.
“There’s only so much you can control when you run for office. I think the environment is much better,” said Stefanowski. “I had headwinds last time with Donald Trump as President. There are a lot of people, particularly in Fairfield County, I think that (Trump) turned them off from Republicans in general.”
Stefanowski is using his first campaign as a learning experience. He said the key differences in this race is a broader platform, and that he’s become more comfortable on the campaign trail.
“We talked about eliminating the state income tax, it’s more than that, it’s about affordability, it’s about healthcare costs, it’s about security and feeling safe, and it’s about education,” said Stefanowski.
“I’m trying to show people what I am, which is a blue-collar guy from New Haven who’s done well and has some different ideas on an approach,” he said. “I’m going to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to make this place better and give kids the opportunity to do what I did and keep people safe.”
For Stefanowski, the final push is to convey that change is needed, and he believes that for voters it means taking a risk on a political outsider.
“I just think it’s time for change, and if you vote for the same governor, it’s not going to change,” he said. “I know it’s a little bit of a risk, you don’t know me as well, you’ve seen Governor Lamont. To make Connecticut better, we have to be willing to take just a tad of a risk and vote for change.”
However, Stefanowski also believes that political polarization may be the only deciding factor for some voters. He said that voters need to put party aside and vote based on policy.
“This is about policy, this is about who you trust, this is about who do you think is more genuine. Who would you rather sit and have a beer with and talk about how we fix the state?” said Stefanowski. “I come across a little bit low key, but I’m as passionate as anybody about changing this state. I’ve been doing it in the corporate sector, I can turn Connecticut around. I can make it better for everyone.”
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. Connecticut residents can register to vote in person on Election Day at their town’s Election Day registration location. Polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The one-on-one interview with Bob Stefanowski was conducted on Zoom.