Endorsing Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton for governor at their convention over the weekend, the Republican state convention selected the party’s most experienced and vetted candidate, a moderate with a long record of governmental and electoral success in a Democratic city.
On the whole the delegates may have concluded that the second-place finisher for governor, former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, combines his energy and aggressiveness with too much anger and that the third-place finisher, technology entrepreneur Steve Obsitnik, lacks any political background and record in public life.
While Republican primary voters in recent years have shown much deference to their conventions, this year may be different because of the large number of candidates trying to press the gubernatorial nomination to a primary.
Not only have Herbst and Obsitnik qualified for a primary by virtue of their strong showing at the convention, but two wealthy and self-funding businessmen, Bob Stefanowski and David Stemerman, are endeavoring to petition their way onto the primary ballot, figuring that with pervasive advertising they can overcome their own lack of political experience and vetting.
If all four make it into a primary with Boughton and the vote is split enough, even 35 percent can make a plurality. While the self-funders might advocate strong positions, the great risk of their candidacies and Obsitnik’s is that their business and personal histories will produce something embarrassing on the eve of the election. That happened with the party’s recent gubernatorial and U.S. Senate nominees, self-funding unknowns Tom Foley and Linda McMahon.
While his experience and admirable record have gotten Boughton the convention endorsement, winning the primary probably will require him to have something compelling to say, specific and controversial positions signifying that he knows just how desperate state government’s circumstances are and has the courage not just to face up to them but to force the whole state to do so as well. Boughton’s expressed desire to phase out the state income tax will remain laughable until he matches it with detailed changes in spending policy that prompt shrieks from influential recipients of government largesse.
Whoever becomes the next governor well might draw a lesson from Winston Churchill, who, assuming the highest office in the nation at the darkest moment of World War II, warned the British people that he could offer them only “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” -- and Churchill confronted only the Wehrmacht, not Connecticut’s government employee unions.
Just as Connecticut’s Democrats, figuring that Governor Malloy has nearly wrecked their chances, have given up on nominating anyone of substantial standing for governor, Republicans have nominated no one of substantial standing for U.S. senator and U.S. representative, figuring that President Trump has done the same for their chances with Congress.
The most substantial candidate Connecticut Republicans have nominated for Congress is former Meriden Mayor Manny Santos in the 5th District, which is being departed by Democratic U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty because of the sexual harassment scandal in her office.
The Republicans have a bit of an excuse with their congressional nominees, since the party’s only officeholders are state legislators who are far more interested in a chance to be part of the General Assembly’s next majority.
Still, Connecticut will suffer for the lack of competition on the congressional level.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut.