Only two days until the Connecticut primaries — and it shows.

The past week has been a series of candidate debates, press conferences, appearances, TV ads and countermeasures all intended to win the hearts and minds of party members across the state. Today will feature plenty of politicking, too, when students from Parkland, Fla., host a rally in Newtown opposing gun violence and encouraging young people to register to vote and support their cause.

In an unprecedented crowd of contenders for the nomination to be the Republican nominee for governor, Mark Boughton, Timothy Herbst, Steve Obsitnik, Bob Stefanowski and David Stemerman all attempted to distinguish themselves last week in debate after debate.

From left, Mark Boughton, Timothy Herbst, Steve Obsitnik, Bob Stefanowski and David Stemerman. mark pazniokas /

All five expressed an aversion to taxes, but parted ways on whether they would eliminate, reduce, or phase out the state income tax which funds about half the state budget.  Former GE executive Stefanowski, who says he would phase it out, even said he would push for a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly to raise taxes – something 16 states already do with limited affect.

On the Democratic side, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim and endorsed-candidate Ned Lamont attacked a variety of Trump Administration policies including moves to limit access to abortion and loosen environmental standards. (Access to an abortion in Connecticut, by the way, is codified into state law and would not be affected even if the Roe v. Wade decision were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, local officials say.)

Ned Lamont, left, and Joe Ganim at last week’s debate. mark pazniokas /

Lamont, perhaps reluctant to irritate voters in Ganim’s home city, never once last Tuesday mentioned his opponent’s seven years in prison for corruption in office.

Candidates from both parties agree that the state’s immense employee pension and benefits debt will be a huge problem for the next governor, but are less eager to acknowledge that they are not likely going to be able to get any concessions from state labor unions. (Speaking of labor, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled last week that private religious institutions are not immune from discrimination lawsuits and must litigate them through the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.)

There was no such reluctance on the part of officials who are not running for re-election to criticize several Trump administration policies.  Gov. Dannel Malloy took part in a protest opposing the deportation of a Bangladeshi immigrant who has been here for 19 years.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a perennial burr under President Donald Trump’s figurative saddle, continued his effort to derail or delay Trump’s appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court by filing Freedom of Information Act requests for a mountain of Kavanaugh’s documents from the White House.

Connecticut law is also an obstacle for Trump’s new policy of encouraging the sale of short-term health insurance policies that don’t include many of the benefits required by the Affordable Care Act. According to Connecticut’s Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade, it doesn’t allow them.

A CTMIRROR SPECIAL REPORT: The nonprofit organizations that care for some of Connecticut’s most vulnerable people are at a critical juncture as the state struggles to deal with a financial crisis. Here is the Connecticut Mirror’s four-part series examining the effect state budget cuts and changes in policy had on the nonprofits and their clients over the years.

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Paul SternViewpoints Editor

Paul has more than 40 years of reporting and editing experience at newspapers in New Jersey, Florida and Connecticut. He worked 22 years at the Hartford Courant in various editing roles including as deputy state editor, assistant editor of Northeast Magazine, and as an associate editor at He earned his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University. A trained chef, he and his wife own and operate a bed and breakfast in an historic home in Mansfield.

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