Bob Stefanowski, seen at a press conference last week, said Tuesday night that Connecticut transgender athletes policy "needs to be evaluated and we need policies that work for everyone.” MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski declined Tuesday night to embrace or reject Connecticut’s policy of allowing transgender athletes to compete in girls’ sports, an issue unexpectedly introduced by a new super PAC supporting him.

In a text message, Stefanowski questioned the process and analysis behind the policy without proposing a reversal — a move the Trump administration futilely demanded of Gov. Ned Lamont in 2020 and that the super PAC, Parents Against Stupid Stuff, is promising to promote in 2022.

“Connecticut law prohibits discrimination,” Stefanowski said. “It’s incumbent upon the high school athletic conferences to seek out the voices of young female athletes, coaches and parents to come up with policies that ensure a level playing field and protect girls’ sports.”

Stefanowski addressed the process, not a policy.

“To date, I don’t believe adequate consideration has been given to the impact this has on women’s sports across the board,” he said. “This goes beyond fairness — it goes to safety. This needs to be evaluated and we need policies that work for everyone.”

At a press conference earlier, Lamont was asked if his position was unchanged from September 2020, when he defied the Trump administration and defended the transgender participation policy of CIAC, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference.

“I think so,” Lamont said.

The first-term Democratic governor was far stronger on his view of the super PAC, whose organizer is a major financial backer of national groups opposed to abortion and gay marriage, “playing politics” with transgender teens who wish to compete in sports.

“When it comes to transgender, I think CIAC is probably getting it right,” Lamont said. “If I had my druthers, keep the federal government out, keep the politicians. I think families and schools and the CIAC are going to be able to work through this and without politicizing it and harming a lot of young people.”

The new super PAC, Parents Against Stupid Stuff, is organized by Sean Fieler, a hedge fund manager from Stamford.

He told CT Mirror on Monday the group will make more than $1 million in independent expenditures opposing Lamont over the issues of transgender athletes, the influence of critical race theory on K-12 curriculum and the appropriateness of how sex and gender identity are taught. 

The PAC has yet to advertise or say precisely what it is demanding of Lamont, Stefanowski or other candidates. During the national debate during the Obama administration over the core curriculum for K-12 schools, Fieler opposed it as an intrusion in local education.

Lamont said local school boards should set policies for the curriculum issues that Fieler’s new PAC highlights.

“Our schools have school boards. Our parents are very involved. Listen to the parents. Listen to the teachers. I think our teachers are really good. They know how to manage this. They know their kids, they know their parents, they know their schools,” Lamont said. “I think people ought to take a breath.”

Lamont is currently targeted by two independent-expenditure groups, each promising to spend at least $1 million in support of Stefanowski. Unlike the candidates’ campaigns, which cannot accept contributions of more than $3,500, there is no limit on the super PACs as long as they are independent of the candidates.

CT Truth PAC has raised $1 million from just two donors, both Connecticut businessmen.

“I worry about all this outside money poured into the state,” said Lamont, who questioned whether the independent-expenditure groups really are independent. “I’m not sure they reflect Connecticut values or where we’re coming from, but I think I’ll reserve judgment and see how it plays out.”

Liz Kurantowicz, the adviser to the Stefanowski campaign, offered no comment on the role of the super PACs.

“The Stefanowski campaign is not responsible for the expenditures of outside groups and is legally prohibited from any coordination,” she said.

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.