The two major party candidates for Connecticut governor clashed over their plans to close the state's budget deficit, criminal justice, and other major issues Wednesday in a debate that also included acrimonious attacks on each other's business records.
Democrat Ned Lamont and Republican Bob Stefanowski, each seeking their first elected office, squared off at the Garde Arts Center in New London.
Several times during the debate, Lamont linked Stefanowski to President Donald Trump, whose endorsed the Republican candidate. Stefanowski, in turn, took every opportunity to paint Lamont as a "clone" of the unpopular Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election for a third term.
"We need to do the exact opposite of what Dan Malloy has been doing for eight years, and Ned Lamont will just continue it," Stefanowksi said.
Stefanowski, who has called for eliminating the state income tax, said he would approach the state's deficit as he did the UBS budget as an executive, pledging to trim at least 5 percent from the annual budget by eliminating fraud, waste and abuse.
Lamont said Stefanowski's approach was irresponsible, arguing that his rival failed to offer any specifics, and that he could not get rid of parts of state government like he was selling off a losing division of a business.
"That is just the type of political answer that has gotten the state in trouble over the last generation," Lamont argued.
Discussions on social issues revealed some of the differences between Stefanowski and Lamont.
Lamont said he would endorse legalization of marijuana, but Stefanowski said that while he was fine with medical uses, he was concerned there is not yet a test to measure impairment of drivers, and the state should deal first with more pressing issues.
Of the "second chance society" reforms pushed through by Malloy, Lamont said the state was well-served and saving money on prison costs, but Stefanowski said he was concerned inmates who are released early are committing violent crimes and costing Connecticut more money in the long run.
Casting himself as the government outsider, Stefanowski referred often to Lamont as the race's politician. That caused Lamont to declare that he was the only one to create jobs as the founder of a telecommunications system for college campuses. He noted also that the GE and UBS buildings in Connecticut are now empty.
"I'm quite comfortable that I'm the agent of change, and you're not," said Stefanowski, who also criticized layoffs at Lamont's company.
"Just like Donald Trump, Bob Stefanowski has no concept of the truth," Lamont said.