HARTFORD -- Bob Stefanowski, a former GE executive who pitched himself to voters as "Bob the Rebuilder," won Tuesday's Republican primary for Connecticut governor in an upset and will face a fellow wealthy businessman, Democrat Ned Lamont, in November.
A political newcomer who bypassed the traditional Republican Party convention process, Stefanowski defeated the party's endorsed candidate, veteran Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, and three other Republican candidates. It was Boughton's third attempt to run for governor. The Madison businessman managed to gain early name recognition by running a series of ads, in which he pledged to fix the state's fiscal woes and eliminating the personal income tax.
"I've been consistent on this from day one, unlike any of my opponents," said Stefanowski, adding how he's the one to "reverse the damage Dan Malloy has done over the last eight years."
Stefanowski's win sets up a likely battle this fall over the policies of Dannel P. Malloy, Connecticut's outgoing Democratic governor — who is not running for a third term — and Republican President Donald Trump, who Democratic primary winner and Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont had vowed fight.
Wednesday morning, President Trump endorsed Stefanowski on twitter:
Lamont easily defeated Bridgeport mayor and ex-convict Joe Ganim in Tuesday's primary. His victory win comes 12 years after he defeated the party's then-veteran U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman in a Democratic showdown that was viewed nationally as a referendum on the war in Iraq. Lamont later lost in the general election when Lieberman ran as an independent.
As in 2006, Lamont is hoping to ride a wave of national discontent among Democrats. He has promised to "save Connecticut" from the dogma of Trump and his fellow Republicans, whether it's on immigration, the weakening of environmental standards, limiting of access to abortion or scaling back of union members' rights.
"He's wrong. We're going to draw a line in the sand. We're fighting for Connecticut values, not Trump values, Connecticut values. We are going to be the firewall," Lamont told supporters who gathered in New Haven.
Democratic Governors Association Chairman Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, said Lamont was the only candidate in the race for governor "who will stand up to Donald Trump when his policies hurt Connecticut."
The Republican Governors Association immediately responded by accusing Lamont of being an "enabler" of Malloy, even though he ran against Malloy in the 2010 gubernatorial primary.
Stefanowski clashed at times with his fellow GOP candidates, who also included former Greenwich hedge fund manager David Stemerman, former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst and Westport tech entrepreneur Steve Obsitnik. Stefanowski was criticized for not having voted for 16 years and for a short stint as a Democrat before registering again as a Republican shortly before announcing his candidacy for governor.
Lamont, of Greenwich, has called for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, more funding for local education, electronic tolls for heavy trucks, and paid family and medical leave. A financially successful founder of a small cable company, Lamont contends he has both the business and people skills to bring various groups together to help solve the state's ongoing budget problems.
He often speaks about being an outsider and about how the "political class" has failed taxpayers and state employees.
Jenna Baker of Griswold, a 25-year-old residential manager at a group home for people with disabilities, said she voted for Lamont primarily because he received the endorsement of her union. She said Ganim's criminal past wasn't a significant factor.
"By running for governor, I assume he is trying to turn around and be a good person," she said. "I don't have anything personally against him."
Almost three years ago to the day, Joseph Ganim authored an upset. But, Tuesday night, Bridgeport’s mayor could not pull another surprise in the Democratic primary.
With convincing wins in Hartford and Bridgeport, Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont, who lost the 2010 democratic primary to now Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, cruised to victory. Both Democrats vowed to work with one another heading toward the November general election.
Ganim was upbeat during his concession speech, saying his campaign faced “Overwhelming odds. It was David vs Goliath .I was able to get out and meet so many people and garner support from so many people in every city in town. Certainly, not overwhelming support, in the context of number of votes, but I made I think what was a clear statement about what was my vision is for Connecticut. We need to fight and make this a place that everyone can have the best quality of life and that’ll be a part of what happens throughout the rest of this campaign season and I hope of the next four years.”
Ganim says he didn’t have anyone tell him on his travels throughout the state that they were bothered by the fact that he was convicted on federal corruption charges and sent to prison for seven years during his first stint as mayor.
In September 2015, Ganim started his political comeback by defeating the Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch in the city’s Democratic primary, enroute to reclaiming the office he was forced from in 2003.