Camillo blasts Democrats’ mailer
GREENWICH — Days before the election, state Rep. Fred Camillo R-151st, is calling out what he says are lies and distortions about his record by Greenwich Democrats.
Camillo, running for re-election against Democrat Laura Kostin, has taken exception to an email blast sent out by the Democratic Town Committee that urges people to vote for Kostin, state Senate candidate Alexandra Bergstein and state House candidate Stephen Meskers. Camillo says that the message is “obnoxious and deceitful” and distorts his record.
The e-blast, which went out on Oct. 27, claims the Greenwich Republican delegation to Hartford has only paid “lip service” to gun safety laws and that each member supports pro-National Rifle Association Republicans including gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski. The message includes language Camillo said is meant to make people think he, state Rep. Michael Bocchino and state Sen. L Scott Frantz all voted against a ban on bump stocks.
DTC leaders counter that their message does not infer that at all.
Camillo said not only did he vote in favor of the ban in House Bill 5542, he was one of the first to co-sponsor the legislation. And he has taken exception to the claim he did not support post-Sandy Hook gun safety laws, which he supported publicly but was not able to be present to vote for.
“It’s a flat out lie and they’ve sent it out to thousands of people,” Camillo said on Thursday. “(Kostin) needs to apologize for it. This is a message from the DTC and it represents her campaign. She’s done nothing to stop this. This is how Democrats try to get elected here. They have to tear someone down to try and build themselves up because they don’t have a record to run on. They should be ashamed of themselves.”
On Thursday, Kostin said the e-blast does not claim the Greenwich delegation voted against the ban.
“There is nothing to apologize for,” Kostin said. “I did not write (the message) but I do believe it to be accurate.”
The Greenwich DTC message claims that “In 2016, the three newly elected Republican State Senators all voted against the bump stock ban” but does not name them.
DTC members said they were in fact referring to State Sens. Heather Somers, George Logan and Len Suzio, none of whom are named in the message and none of whom represent Greenwich.
The header of the e-blast reads: “Fast Facts on Greenwich’s incumbent state legislators (Frantz, Bocchino and Camillo).”
Bocchino could not be reached for comment but Frantz did not think voters would believe the DTC’s message.
“The DTC piece simply falls on its face all by itself, voters are much smarter than that,” Frantz said on Thursday.
DTC Chair Tony Turner defended the mailer after Camillo raised his objections.
“I’m delighted that we’re having this kind of dialogue and we’re shining lights on the incumbents’ voting record,” Turner said. “They’re having the opportunity to showcase it and discuss it. It’s a very, very positive occurrence in local Greenwich politics. We should all be very grateful that we’re having this kind of dialogue.”
The DTC message includes several other claims against the Republican incumbents, including that they voted against same-sex marriage and against legislation prohibiting job discrimination. The DTC also claims the Republican delegation voted against allowing early voting and against legislation to require disclosure of dark money contributions, while attacking Republican positions against increasing the minimum wage and on the environment.
Camillo says there never was a vote against same sex marriage since the matter was decided by a judicial decision before he was even in the Legislature. Camillo and Frantz were first elected in 2008, taking office in January 2009, and Bocchino was first elected in 2014. The case of Kerrigan v. the Commissioner of Public Health, which found same-sex couples have the right to marry, was decided by the Connecticut Supreme Court in October 2008.
“They are trying to fool people regarding the March 2009 vote on codification and saying it was vote against gay marriage,” Camillo said. “Those are two very different votes.”
The vote in March 2009 was to codify the court decision, but Camillo said he was concerned about two aspects of the legislation: the teaching of same sex marriage in schools because he was unsure whether any form of marriage should be taught in schools, and a provision to strip justices of the peace of their license if they had a conflict with performing a ceremony due to a religious objection.
“If it had been a straight-up codification, it would have been an easy ‘yes’ vote,” Camillo said.
Kostin said a Vote Smart survey from 2008 showed Camillo saying he was against same sex marriage.
“I can tell you what his voting record says and he has gone on the record opposing same-sex marriage,” Kostin said.
Beyond those votes, Camillo said the mailer does not say why he voted against a minimum-wage increase, a position he said was based upon what he has been told by small business owners in his district.
“We are fifth highest in nation in terms of minimum wage, but I would love for it to be $15 if not for the burden on small businesses,” Camillo said. “I do a Rep. Camillo business tour of the 151st District each year and most had issues with it. The bigger companies did not. Raising prices hurts a small restaurant when the chain down the street, or a bigger competitor can easily absorb the added cost. That eventually could lead to less competition.”
On the environment, the DTC message cites scores from the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, which gave Camillo a 67 percent grade in 2017 along with Bocchino’s 58 percent and Frantz’s 50 percent. The message did acknowledge those scores went up approximately 20 percent in 2018, but claims the Republicans are “still not strong environmentalists” because the party had been able to quash legislation in committee to keep it from reaching the floor for a vote, thereby inflating Republicans’ scores.
“What they fail to mention is some of these bills needed to be worked on and that we vote on amendments so that can at least be attempted,” said Camillo, who received a score of 88 percent in 2018. “This is not a big deal, but to attack us as being anti-environment is a stretch, especially since I have helped write laws expanding recycling.”