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Stefanowski running for governor in likely expensive race

January 19, 2022 GMT
FILE — Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski greets supporters at an election night party, Nov. 6, 2018, in Rocky Hill, Conn. Stefanowski is seeking a rematch against a former political rival, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont. (AP Photo/Stephen Dunn, File)
FILE — Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski greets supporters at an election night party, Nov. 6, 2018, in Rocky Hill, Conn. Stefanowski is seeking a rematch against a former political rival, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont. (AP Photo/Stephen Dunn, File)
FILE — Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski greets supporters at an election night party, Nov. 6, 2018, in Rocky Hill, Conn. Stefanowski is seeking a rematch against a former political rival, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont. (AP Photo/Stephen Dunn, File)
FILE — Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski greets supporters at an election night party, Nov. 6, 2018, in Rocky Hill, Conn. Stefanowski is seeking a rematch against a former political rival, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont. (AP Photo/Stephen Dunn, File)
FILE — Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski greets supporters at an election night party, Nov. 6, 2018, in Rocky Hill, Conn. Stefanowski is seeking a rematch against a former political rival, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont. (AP Photo/Stephen Dunn, File)

Connecticut voters face the prospect of another high-priced election with the reemergence of businessperson Bob Stefanowski, the Republican candidate for governor in 2018, who announced Wednesday he is running again and is spending at least $10 million of his own money this time.

Stefanowski hopes to defeat his former political rival, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, a wealthy businessperson who spent more than $12 million of his own money on his 2018 campaign. Stefanowski’s campaign spent nearly $6 million that year, with roughly half coming from the candidate.

“I’m running because I fundamentally believe that by working together, we can change Connecticut,” Stefanowski said in a written statement. “I’m running for Governor to make government work for the people of Connecticut, not political insiders.”

A campaign spokesperson said that in addition to Stefanowski’s “initial investment” of $10 million, the campaign is planning a “robust fundraising program.”

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Lamont has so far set aside about $210,000 of his own money for his reelection, a figure that’s sure to skyrocket in the coming months. When asked Wednesday how much he is prepared to spend, Lamont skirted the question but said he doesn’t think it has to be campaign spending “arms race.”

“I don’t think it has to be that at all. I think if we stick to our message, keep it positive, talk about what you want to do for the state of Connecticut, in my point of view how we build on the very positive momentum we’ve seen in the last three years, it doesn’t have to be an arms race,” Lamont said.

A former GE executive and onetime head of a payday loan company, Stefanowski spent much of his own money early on, skipped the party convention process in 2018, and became the first major-party candidate in Connecticut history to win a nomination after getting onto the ballot through petitions. He ran ads promising, among other things, to eliminate the state’s income tax.

This time, in a statement released Wedneday, Stefanowski said he is running to address basic issues facing Connecticut voters, including affordability and public safety.

“People in Connecticut are not asking for a lot,” he said. “They want to be safe, to trust that state government is being open and accountable, and to be able to afford to live, work and retire here.”

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Stefanowski has maintained a public profile since losing to Lamont in his first bid for public office. Early in the coronavirus pandemic, Stefanowski and his wife, Amy, the Republican Town Committee chair in their hometown of Madison, launched a face mask distribution operation when personal protective equipment was difficult to find.

More recently, Stefanowski has posted photos of himself on Twitter — still using the handle @bobforgovernor — helping the campaign of a state representative candidate, collecting donations for the Salvation Army and appearing with student groups.

He has also used social media to lodge sharp criticisms at Lamont, ranging from his response to the pandemic to the Democrat’s decision not to call state lawmakers back to Hartford to address concerns around crimes by young people.

“Crime is rising across our state, residents feel less safe, and law enforcement is demoralized because of policies coming out of our state government,” Stefanowski said in a statement.

Lamont said Wednesday that his administration has focused sharply on addressing repeat criminal offenders, making sure judges have the necessary information about juvenile suspects so they can make sound decisions about their detention, and increasing the ranks of police officers.

Stefanowski could face a primary challenge.

Former House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, who has expressed interest in challenging Lamont, as well, said she has not yet made a decision about her candidacy as a Republican contender. Susan Patricelli Regan of Granby, a former global marketing executive for spirits and beer company DIAGEO, has already announced she is seeking the Republican Party’s endorsement for governor.

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Associated Press writer Pat Eaton-Robb contributed to this report.