Susan Hatfield and William Tong during a debate at WVIT. WVIT
Susan Hatfield and William Tong during a debate at NBC Connecticut. WVIT

President Donald J. Trump, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and violent crime loom large in the latest round of campaign commercials in the race for attorney general of Connecticut, an office at odds with the Trump administration on a broad range of civil issues, but lacking jurisdiction in criminal matters.

In two commercials released Monday, Democrat William Tong promises to continue opposing Trump on policies harmful to Connecticut and highlights Republican Susan Hatfield’s early support of Trump as a candidate and defender of his policies on immigration, including separating children from parents.

Hatfield, a state prosecutor who was an early volunteer for Trump and served as a Trump delegate at the Republican National Convention, says she will be a crime fighter as attorney general and suggests in her latest commercial that legislation favored by Tong played a role in a triple homicide in Griswold last year.

Trump and crime have been constants in the campaign.

One of Tong’s new spots shows him hiking with his two daughters. He says, “When I see Donald Trump tear kids away from their parents, I think of what I would do if Donald Trump took my kids away from me. I would do everything I could to stop him. As your attorney general, that’s exactly what I would do.”

A companion piece features video of an interview with Paul Bass of the New Haven Independent in which Hatfield says she agrees with the Trump administration’s policies of separating parents from their minor children in immigration detention cases. “I do,” she said. “I do.”

The office under Attorney General George Jepsen, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election, has sued the Trump administration 29 times, filed 38 amicus briefs and signed two dozen letters opposing administration policies weakening air-pollution standards and consumer protections, banning travel from Muslim countries, and defunding Planned Parenthood.

Hatfield got laughs at a GOP rally over the weekend mentioning Tong’s constant jabs at Trump.

“I’m beginning to think I’m running unopposed, because my opponent, I believe, he is running for president, not the attorney general of the state of Connecticut,” Hatfield said. “I would be an attorney general who puts the law first, not politics. I believe in the Constitution, due process and following the law.”

Tong said a major role of the state attorney general, as demonstrated by Jepsen, is protecting Connecticut residents from federal actions that harm them, such as overturning Obama-era limitations on burning coal in midwest power plants, whose emissions flow with the prevailing winds to the eastern seaboard.

“The president is leading an unprecedented assault on our way of life, and he’s declared war on Connecticut families,” Tong said. “I don’t say that to be dramatic. That’s entirely where we are.”

Hatfield’s emphasis on crime is not new, either, though her newest ad stops short of the startling claim in an ad before the GOP primary about turning the office into a crime-fighting tool: “As our next attorney general, Sue Hatfield will punish those who prey on our children, cracking down on sexual predators and human trafficking. Hatfield will bring down drug lords and violent criminals who profit from opioids, meth and heroin addiction.”

The attorney general has no powers in those areas, something that Tong says Hatfield well knows as an employee in the office of the chief state’s attorney.

“I can only assume she is affirmatively trying to deceive the voters of this state,” Tong said.

Her latest ad generally links Tong, a Democratic state representative from Stamford who is co-chairman of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, to Malloy, promotes her record as a state prosecutor and notes, “Tong has never prosecuted a criminal. In fact, Tong has legislated to release violent criminals from jail who commit heinous crimes.”

A headline in the commercial suggests that a suspect in a Griswold triple murder gained early release under good-time credit legislation backed by Tong. But the suspect was paroled by the autonomous Board of Pardons and Parole, not released due to time shaved off his sentence under the state’s Risk Reduction Earned Credit program.

Criminals convicted of violent crimes must serve a minimum of 85 percent of their sentences.

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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