Home Fairfield Exclusive: Bob Stefanowski details the strategy in his campaign for Connecticut governor

Exclusive: Bob Stefanowski details the strategy in his campaign for Connecticut governor

Bob Stefanowski. Contributed photo.

In 2018, Republican Bob Stefanowski lost the election for governor of Connecticut to Democrat Ned Lamont in a 49.38% to 46.21% margin. Stefanowski, a former chief executive of financial services companies, including GE Commercial & Industrial Finance and Dollar Financial Group, is back for a second go-round against Lamont.

In an interview with the Business Journals, Stefanowski explained why he has thrown his proverbial hat into the political ring again and forecasted why this year’s election will turn out in his favor.

The first question is an obvious one: Why are you running for governor for a second time in four years?

I don’t know how much of my background you know, but I grew up in New Haven. My mom and dad worked at the Southern Telephone Co. for 40 years — they saved for myself and my three sisters to go to school, and I worked at General Electric and Price Waterhouse and some great companies. And I’ve been fortunate to live and raise a family here. I’ve got three terrific daughters. The state’s been really good to me.

At this point in my career, I thought it’d be good to give back. And I think I’ve learned a lot in our state. I’m certainly grateful to our state. And I don’t think kids today have the same opportunities I had when I was growing up. It’s a different environment now with high gas prices and inflation, lack of affordability and crime. And I’d like to get Connecticut back to what it used to be.

What were some of the lessons that you learned in the 2018 campaign?

Well, one of them is to spend more time in Fairfield County. I didn’t spend enough last time and it’s one of the many reasons I chose Laura Devlin as my running mate — she is a Fairfield County representative who knows people there. I look forward to working with Brenda Kupchik and Fred Camillo and all the mayors down there to get to know the people better.

I think the second thing is a broader platform. Taxes are a big deal in Connecticut, but it’s not just taxes — it’s utility bills, it’s the cost of gasoline, it’s the cost of groceries, the added taxes that the governor has put on prepared foods and other things that is stretching people these days.

The third one is public safety, particularly with the rise in homicides that we see in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven and other places. We’ve seen juvenile crime with respect to stealing cars and catalytic converters, and I don’t think Connecticut is where it should be. So we’re going to come up with a much broader platform this time, get out there more, get our message directly to the people.

A lot of people who run for office are always talking about how they want to cut taxes. What exactly is your plan for addressing Connecticut’s taxes?

One thing we should be doing right now is removing the taxes on gas. Gov. Lamont did get rid of one of the taxes on regular gas, but there’s another one that should go away. We also have a 40-cent tax on diesel fuel, which is very inflationary because the trucks are going to pass that through to consumers in the price of the goods. That diesel tax is expected to go up again before the end of June. So, I really think we should be getting some immediate relief in taxes on gas given where the prices are.

Also, I think we should lower the state income tax to deal with inflation because the price of goods and services are going up; we should also get rid of the grocery receipts tax. The amount of money coming into the government is more and more every day.

The government is sitting on a $3.5 billion Rainy Day Fund. Well, it is a rainy day — people are struggling to fill up their cars with gas. I think those would be the three that would give people some immediate relief from what we’re going through right now.

Gov. Lamont highlights the new businesses that he brings to the state. What is your opinion of his efforts to bring business to the state? And what would you do to not only bring business here, but to ensure that companies like Raytheon don’t leave the state?

The companies I talked to are not happy. Number one, there was an unemployment insurance loan that they had to take out in the height of Covid to help fund insurance benefits, and most states have paid that off for small business. Gov. Lamont, with a $3 billion budget surplus, has refused to pay it off. So, you’ve got a $455 million loan where the interest in principle is being assessed to small businesses who are already struggling with fuel prices, and they have to pass that on in the cost of their goods and services. That’s very inflationary.

There is also the workforce. Every small business I talk to can’t find enough workers. We need to invest more in the trade schools and training kids, and we need to have more affordable daycare for people because in a lot of cases with daycare it costs a mom or a dad more to go to work than to stay home. So, we need to make that more flexible.

Regulation is the third issue I hear about — it just takes forever to get anything done, whether it’s getting a new piece of equipment approved or expanding a factory. We have to streamline the regulatory process so that businesses can react more quickly.

What is the role of the governor in addressing inflation, particularly at this point of time? And do you think Ned Lamont is doing anything to acknowledge the high inflation rate that we’re living under?

First of all, he’s as responsible as anybody. I call it Biden-Lamont inflation — inflation is caused by excessive government spending and in the state of Connecticut we certainly did our part to add to inflation when we increased the budget by $3.5 billion.

Taxes are also inflationary. He likes to talk about a $600 million tax cut, but half of that was temporary and that’s never included. But he raised taxes by $1.7 billion his first year in office — when you put taxes on prepared foods and movie downloads and personal protective equipment that gets passed on to consumers, that’s inflationary. We still have taxes on gas, which is already at record highs. There’s a lot he could do to help Connecticut get to be more affordable, but for whatever reason he’s unwilling to do it.

At the moment, there are no Republicans in the state congressional delegation. In your opinion, why is that? And what do you see happening in this year’s election that might bring Republicans to both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate?

People are not happy with what’s going on in Washington right now — it’s reflected in the president’s approval rating. And the president went from winning Connecticut by a large margin to having about a 40% approval rating in Connecticut.

People are ready for a change. People like Jim Himes and Jahanna Hayes have been part of the problem. And most people would predict that nationally we’re going to see an increase in seats in both the House and possibly the Senate with Republicans. I think Connecticut is probably unhappier than more states and I think we’re going to see some change in a positive direction. I would hope that we pick up a couple of seats in the House.

Assuming that you win the election this year and you’re running again in 2026, where would you see Connecticut in four years?

I think what people are looking for is not somebody to turn it around overnight, but they’re looking for somebody that is going to make some commonsense decisions, invest in law enforcement, try to see where we can make it more affordable to be here and let parents raise their own kids right.

I do think we’re going to win this time. It feels different out there. There’s a lot of momentum for change, and we’re going to bring it.

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Phil Hall's writing for Westfair Communications has earned multiple awards from the Connecticut Press Club and the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists. He is a former United Nations-based reporter for Fairchild Broadcast News and the author of 10 books (including the 2020 release "Moby Dick: The Radio Play" and the upcoming "Jesus Christ Movie Star," both published by BearManor Media). He is also the host of the SoundCloud podcast "The Online Movie Show," co-host of the WAPJ-FM talk show "Nutmeg Chatter" and a writer with credits in The New York Times, New York Daily News, Hartford Courant, Wired, The Hill's Congress Blog, Profit Confidential, The MReport and StockNews.com. Outside of journalism, he is also a horror movie actor - usually playing the creepy villain who gets badly killed at the end of each film.

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