HARTFORD — Just 19 days until you go to vote.
Thursday brought us one step closer to the end of campaign season with the 4th of 5 debates in the race for governor.
The debate, hosted by the Connecticut Broadcasters Association was held inside the Infinity Music Hall in Hartford. It provided a more intimate setting than past debates and the content of the back and forth was marginally more substantive. Three of the five candidates running were invited.
“We want Ned!” chanted Lamont supporters, who gathered outside the debate hall and got a visit from their candidate. “Let me tell ya, you give me a lot of energy coming to this thing,” Lamont said.
It was a debate full of political punches on topics like tolls.
“I’ve got one guy on the left that wants to roll people who carpool in the HOV Lane. I got a guy in the middle who just wants to put tolls on out-of-state tractor trailers,” said Stefanowski.
Oz Griebel fired back when Stefanowski said, “We’ve got a pilot here. We’ve got out-of-state tractor trailers there. And you have no solutions Bob!” rebutted Oz.
“Trust me ladies and gentlemen,” said Stefanowski.
“Oh yeah, trust me!” Griebel sarcastically mocked.
Griebel said he wears the recent debate criticism as a badge of honor.
“Yeah, somebody is reading their polls,” he said.
Another fiery exchange in the debate came on a discussion about keeping crime rates low.
“When you are losing 80 people a day, yeah the number of crimes is going to come down,” Stefanowski said.
“Our population is up over the last five, 10, 20 and 30 years,” reminded Lamont.
“80 people a day, were losing,” Stefanowski repeated.
“Adding even more,” Lamont jabbed back.
“Because of the economic policies of Dan Malloy that you want to continue,” lobbed Stefanowski.
“More even coming into the state,” said Lamont.
“We could go on forever,” said Stefanowski.
We heard the typical Trump / Malloy references.
“I know your friend Donald Trump says we can barrow until we are blue in the face, we don’t do that in Connecticut and I’m not going to allow it to happen,” said Lamont.
“Ned you ought to remember this, your buddy Dan Malloy has put the highest tax rate in the state of Connecticut over the last 8 years,” said Stefanowski.
But then we actually heard some substance on topics like refugees, immigration and sanctuary cities.
“I want you to know that as governor I am going to be welcoming. I support strong borders and legal immigration but also respect diversity which is what makes this state extraordinary,” said Lamont.
Stefanowski said, “I do think we should support people who are here illegally. The diversity of our state and country are some of our biggest assets. But I don’t think sanctuary cities are the way to do it. We cannot pick and choose what federal laws we decide to enforce.”
And how they would appoint judges.
“I want to have a court system that reflects the folks here in the state of Connecticut,” said Lamont.
“There’s a lot of vacancies throughout the system and just because there are vacancies doesn’t mean we need to fill them all,” Stefanowski said.
Arguably Griebel’s best moment came in a thoughtful answer about retaining and attracting businesses.
“The Governor has to be the chief marketing officer for the state. Make sure you take the time to listen to listen to them, make sure you take the time to tell them they are loved, that the taxes they pay are appreciated, the taxes their employees pay is appreciated. The investment that they make in their plant, equipment and research is appreciated,” he said.
With only one debate left, the candidates are fine tuning their end game.
“I think every poll that you see basically has us within the margin of error,” said Stefanowski. “We’ve got a ton of momentum. We are going to win this race.”
“There’s one guy who didn’t even vote,” said Lamont. “You can’t parachute in and just critique.”
Election Day is 19 days away and polls show the race is tightening. Lamont holding a slight lead, Stefanowski is within striking distance and Oz Griebel is in double digits.