Why Stefanowski Won

Former Republican State Chair Chris Healy explains why Bob Stefanowski won the Republican primary for governor.

Often, we in politics miss the obvious and the 2018 primary results bear that out. We political types are always last in on the joke and the joke was on us. Bob Stefanowski defied all expectations and easily won a high-turnout Republican primary because he got to GOP voters first and burnished his image and message before anyone could get off the dime.

Stefanowski won because he promised to get rid of the odious income tax which has dragged this once peerless economic engine into a bloated entitlement state and unlimited resource for negligent state spending and record debt. Between he and Mark Boughton, who also pledged to end the tax (but over a decade), they collected almost half the primary vote.

GOP primary voters said they are tired of paying taxes, tired on public sector unions, tired of having their homes worth less, tired of waiting six hours at the DMV–and they want something done about it yesterday. They are not interested in splitting the difference on social programs or supporting failed school systems or told nothing can be done on the state employee locked-in contracts. To many of these voters, it’s about life and financial ruin and anyone who has a plan that dramatically changes that is okay with them.

While not a seasoned campaigner, Stefanowski showed discipline in his approach. It started last fall with TV ads, mostly on FOX News that monopolized the debate. His message was roughly: “Dan Malloy destroyed Connecticut and I have a plan.”

Stefanowski spent freely, unencumbered by trolling for small-dollar contributions or corralling convention delegates who are more open to traditional office seekers. He invited Republicans to hear his plan in detail, paid Reagan-era economist Art Laffer to validate it and worked the Republican meeting and dinner circuit.

Many Republican primary voters, mostly 50 years and older, got comfortable with the message. Like any product hitting the market first, Stefanowski kept pushing a simple message on an wide open market. He learned something at GE–overpower the opportunity before you and hold on.

By the time the Republican field had winnowed from 14 candidates to five hopefuls, Republican voters had already grown weary of the back and forth among the preliminary candidates and semi-finalists. It all became a low fever, a dull hum, where no alternative compelling theme emerged through the clutter.

There was very little difference in all the messages from these candidates–no marker that set anyone apart that could inspire Republican voters to give a second look because Stefanowski got there first and stayed with it. When his opponents attacked him for a shoddy voting record and being a Democrat for a short period of time, Stefanowski endured it but kept at his message and painted his opponents for taking taxpayer-subsidized Citizen Election Program funding as freeloaders. Stefanowski showed he was willing to go the distance.

Within an hour of the closing of the polls, the returns showed the depth of Stefanowski’s support including areas where both Boughton and Trumbull’s Tim Herbst were suppose to dominate. Neither of these accomplished–and yes, established politicians, could produce the numbers they needed.

There were predictable hard feelings and some poor behavior by some of the vanquished candidates and their supporters. Many privately scoffed that Stefanowski has no chance against Lamont since some doubt he has the additional resources to match Lamont’s family riches. Other out-of-work consultants and office holders burned the phone lines outlining doomsday scenarios for the entire ticket.

It is an understandable reaction because Stefanowski beat the house and made history. But the facts are undeniable–32 percent of the Republican faithful turned out and Stefanowski won across the state. Most insiders saw him finishing third at best with at most a 20 percent participation rate. Despite Democrat hopes and Malloy trash-talking that Republicans had abandoned the President and slunk home, Republicans are more than ready to torch some snowflakes.

Republicans who saw their candidates fail need to lose the attitude, break out their ATM cards and checkbooks and sign up rather than surrender at the Maginot Line. And to prove there is hope, a pro-Stefanowski Super PAC was up on the air Thursday with a scorching ad against Lamont, highlighting a radio interview where the Greenwich scion said higher taxes were coming.

Ned Lamont–Bulk Purchaser
Lamont isn’t Dan Malloy, or Bill O’Neill, Ella Grasso or Abe Ribicoff. Lamont performance Tuesday night was one “YEEEEHAW” away from Howard Dean-land. During his remarks, Lamont appeared to nearly stroke out with his strained gibberish which culminated in a call for “bulk purchasing.”

In his calmer moments, Lamont defends the state employee unions, supports tolls, concedes no significant reforms are anticipated for at least a year or until Ned meets everyone at the mystical “table” of participation where the unions outline their next list of demands.

Republican primary voters have given the GOP ticket and down ballot candidates its marching order–do something about our state before it is too late–run on something big and don’t back down. It’s more than likely to conclude there are enough Unaffiliated voters and even some Democrats who feel the same way.

The voters are ready. Now it is time to go amongst them.

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11 comments

  1. Republicans should have a lot to worry about den turnout was also high and about 70,000 more democrats voted in the primary. Joe Ganim got almost the same amount of votes as Stefanwoski. Ned Lamont got more votes than the entire 5 republican candiates combined he got 172,000 votes while republicans all together got about 143,000 votes. If Lamont gets huge margins out of bridgeport new haven hartford and does well in waterbury stamford and norwalk he wins this. The only good thing republicans have going for them is he is not a fairfield county republican he might do good in new haven county where republicans have done horrible in elections.

  2. Bob Stefanowski can’t win with just Republican votes which they know, they need a large turnout of Independent and they need to convince some Democrats to vote Republican, well with 45 still showing his ass off and Stefanowski embracing 45 that will be a turnoff for some voters of all parties.

  3. Donj, are you smoking K2 or just bullshitting, I think Dems should be more concerned than the Republicans. The last two election for governor were split. In the open election when Dan first ran, he only won by like 7000 votes and in his reelection, won by 30000. CT voters are so distraught will democrats, state wide, even Dan himself didn’t want to run. not to mention there are more unafilliated votes then Democrates votes. Bob play this on a loop 🙂 SMBH https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjLFXWdPXTc

  4. *** Republicans will vote for any Trump supporter that claims to do something about & or get rid of state taxes in general! A complete farce & con-job with no real substitute or plan study to make-up the tax void if it was possible? ***What say you?***

  5. Stephanowski won because popular, Connecticut Republican mayor, Mark Boughton, the other income-tax-cutting guy (who was not riding the dangerous Laffer-Curve, economic roller-coaster platform) was perceived as not being in the robust, predictable health required for stable service as Connecticut Chief Executive… Stemerman was perceived as coming out of “nowhere” without the requisite political experience needed to navigate the political system, as well having a too-difficult-to- digest, hard-to-believe economic development platform . Obsitnik just doesn’t have political “presence,” and ran a somewhat inept campaign… Tim Herbst just doesn’t present in any “gubernatorial” manner, and had an inappropriate (for this state’s present condition), totally off-the-mark platform (if his collection of causes/policy positions could even be defined as such…) Indeed, Herbst ran a scary, bizarre campaign, which had no real focus once his targets (Mark Lauretti and the bizarre Peter Lumaj) were weeded out of the race…

    It came down to who would claim that they would get rid of the income tax, and that reduced to Boughton and Stephanowski. If Boughton hadn’t had serious health issues going into the election season, his more likeable, trustable persona, giving off the mesmerizing aura of tax-cuts, would have been more than enough to overcome Pay-Day Bob’s money advantage… Stephanowski, when all is said and done, is just the Republican Party default candidate, and is not electable in the general election… The R’s should have gambled on Boughton’s health…

    1. Plus he’s not a real Republican but with 45 in office, who just became a Republican like Stefanowski, there is no Republican Party it’s the “45 Party,” that has no backbone to speak out just like Stefanowski.

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