GOP candidate David Stemerman greets voters in Harwinton Tuesday.
Bob Stefanowski hands a bottle of water to a young supporter outside the Madison polls Tuesday.

Connecticut Democrats and Republicans go to the polls Tuesday to bring clarity to the unruliest of political seasons, making choices that not only will determine the major-party nominations for governor, but could forever change how candidates seek access to the primary ballots and encourage them to enlist friendly super PACs to supplement their campaigns.

 Three of the five Republican candidates for governor are backed by super PACs, emulating a trend in presidential politics  — establishing dedicated independent-expenditure groups, which can accept unlimited contributions from rich supporters, corporations or unions as long as they do not directly coordinate with the candidate.

The richest by far is the Protect Freedom PAC, the independent-expenditure group promoting Bob Stefanowski, whose campaign cannot directly accept contributions of more than $3,500. But his super PAC has raised more than $1.2 million, according to a report filed Monday, reporting $730,000 from a single donor: Reverge Anselmo, a movie producer from Greenwich and son of the late Rene Anselmo, creator of the world’s first privately owned global satellite network.

Another $100,000 came from Richard Uihlein, a mega-donor from Wisconsin. As Politico reported, “His early six- and seven-figure contributions to emerging Republican candidates, and penchant for disruptive politics, have been crucial to building a raft of anti-establishment Republicans seeking to emulate Donald Trump’s formula for success during this year’s midterm elections.”

Two of the five GOP candidates, Stefanowski and David Stemerman — both businessmen with no previous political involvement with the GOP — bypassed a state convention system that for decades has tightly controlled access to the primary ballots. If elected, either candidate would be the first Connecticut governor to win a major-party nomination by petitioning for a primary.

A little more than 1.2 million of the state’s 2.1 million registered voters — the 769,414 Democrats and 451,869 Republicans enrolled as of midday Monday — are eligible to vote Tuesday in primaries for offices ranging from registrar of voters to open races for governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, attorney general and Congress. Polls open at 6 a.m.

Eighty-eight candidates competing for 40 nominations

In all, 53 Democrats are competing for nominations in 25 races: four statewide constitutional offices, one seat in the 5th Congressional District, six in the state Senate, 10 in the state House of Representatives, two probate judgeships and registrars of voters in Preston and Wolcott

Thirty-five Republicans are competing in 15 races: five statewide constitutional offices, U.S. Senate, the 5th Congressional District, three seats in the state Senate, four in the state House and the registrar of voters in Ansonia.

For the first time since the advent of public financing, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee is certain to be a candidate who did not participate in the voluntary Citizens’ Election Program: Ned Lamont of Greenwich, the wealthy party-endorsed candidate in a two-way primary with Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim, opted to self-fund; Ganim’s criminal record bars him from public financing.

But it is the unprecedented five-way Republican primary that holds the most potential for pointing future candidates to new ways of raising money and qualifying for primaries. As other states have migrated to direct primaries, Connecticut has remained reliant on state convention delegates to be arbiters of who can seek the support of the full party in a primary.

The other three Republicans running for governor — Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, former Trumbull First Selectman Timothy Herbst and tech entrepreneur Steve Obsitnik of Westport — all are participating in the Citizens’ Election Program and qualified for the primary by winning at least 15 percent of the convention vote. Boughton, who is running for the third time, is the party-endorsed candidate.

Republicans have three-way primaries for lieutenant governor and the 5th Congressional nomination. Democrats have three-way primaries for attorney general and two state legislative races.

Whatever happens on Tuesday, the results will be binding. Connecticut has no run-off provisions for races in which no one wins a majority. In the case of the five-way GOP primary for governor, the nominee could conceivably prevail with little more than 20 percent of what is expected to be a turnout of about 100,000 Republicans.

Lobbyist provides link from Boughton to super PAC donor

A super PAC backing Stefanowski aims at Boughton.

Obsitnik and Boughton are backed by more modest super PACs. The biggest contributor to CT Rising, which has raised about $100,000 in recent weeks to support Boughton, is linked to Boughton and his administration by Patrick Sullivan, a prominent Hartford lobbyist.

Sullivan’s firm, Sullivan & LeShane, represents both the Boughton administration  and Winters Brothers, a trash hauler with a facility in Danbury. Winters Brothers and an affiliate that owns the Danbury facility each gave $12,500 to CT Rising, one quarter of its total funding.

Sullivan, who has been an informal adviser to the Boughton campaign, did not return calls for comment. Boughton’s campaign declined comment.

Independent-expenditure groups played significant roles in the 2014 campaign, but only in the general election. Outside groups, mostly associated with the Republican Governors Association and Democratic Governors Association, spent about $18 million on that governor’s race.

As of a week ago, Lamont had outspent Ganim $2.6 million to $606,000. On television, he outspent him by about $1 million to less than $200,000.

Public financing provides participants with $1.35 million for a gubernatorial primary and another $6.5 million to the winner for the general election. But Stemerman, a hedge fund founder, already has spent $6.2 million on his primary campaign, with about $2.5 million on television and radio advertising.

Stefanowski has spent about $2.9 million, with about half going to television and radio advertising. The super PAC supporting him has spent more than $600,000 on commercials, including an ad now running that attacks Boughton as a two-time, unelectable loser.

Republican Primaries
Office Endorsed Challengers Challengers Challenger Challenger
Governor Mark Boughton Timothy Herbst Steve Obsitnik Bob Stefanowski David Stemerman
Lieutenant Governor Joe Markley Jayme Stevenson Erin Stewart
Comptroller Kurt Miller Mark Greenberg
Treasurer Thad Gray Art Linares
Attorney General Susan Hatfield John Shaban
US Senate Matthew Corey Dominic Rapini
US House 5 Manny Santos Ruby Corby-O’Neill Rich DuPont
State Senate 9 Ed Charamut Tyler Flanigan
State Senate 14 Anthony Giannattasio Pam Staneski
State Senate 23 John Rodriguez Casimir “Caz” Mizera
State House 100 Tyrell Brown Anthony Gennaro
State House 116 Richard D DePalma Roman Khondker
State House 128 Luis A Colon Ethan Book
State House 147 Anzelmo Graziosi Marcy Minnick
Reg Voters – Ansonia David Papcin Nancy Valentine
Secretary of the State

Democratic Primaries
Office Endorsed Challengers Challengers
Governor Ned Lamont Joe Ganim
Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz Eva Bermudez Zimmerman
Treasurer Shawn Wooden Dita Bhargava
Attorney General William Tong Paul Doyle Chris Mattei
US House 5 Mary Glassman Jahana Hayes
State Senate 9 Antonio “Tony ” Guerrera Matt Lesser
State Senate 13 Mary Daugherty Abrams Alex Tiktinsky
State Senate 16 Dagmara Scalise Vickie Orsini Nardello
State Senate 17 Jorge Cabrera Sean Grace Valerie Horsley
State Senate 23 Dennis Bradley Aaron Turner
State Senate 34 Aili McKeen Josh Balter
State House 3 Minnie Gonzalez Gannon R Long
State House 5 Lawrence O Jaggon Brandon McGee
State House 18 Andy Fleischmann Jillian Gilchrest
State House 29 Christopher Duff Kerry Szeps Wood
State House 38 Baird Welch-Collins Nick Gauthier Patrick Murphy
State House 43 Kate Rotella Chris Donahue
State House 60 Jane M Garibay Kathleen Tracy
State House 126 Shante Hanks Charlie Stallworth
State House 140 Travis Simms Colin Anthony Hosten
State House 146 David Michel Terry B. Adams
Probate Judge 27 Andrea Truppa Michael J Cartier
Probate Judge 51 Doug Stern Darnell D Crosland
Reg Voters – Preston Karen Stockton Cheryl A. Roberts
Reg Voters – Wolcott Donna Ferguson James D Pape
Secretary of the State

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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