Gov. Ned Lamont’s tweet of an 18-second snippet from a satirical country song that bemoans the difficulty of rhyming anything with Connecticut, while mentioning marijuana and internet gambling as among its blessings, has Republican Bob Stefanowski singing the blues.
To be precise, Stefanowski’s gubernatorial campaign released a letter Tuesday in which he asks Attorney General William Tong to investigate whether the governor’s tweet violates a state law regulating cannabis advertising or if state money was used to produce an accompanying video.
The letter raises several questions, including whether Stefanowski or anyone on his campaign has listened to the full 3 minutes and 45 seconds of the song, “First Ever Connecticut Country Song,” or just the 18-second excerpt.
It also is a reminder of the headaches that social media accounts can produce for elected officials, especially when satire is involved.
The offending portion, accompanied in the tweet by video produced by the governor’s office, comes nearly 3 minutes into a tune.
Singer-songwriter Rusty Gear outlines reasons why Connecticut should be immortalized in country lyrics, other than “cuz it’s really hard to rhyme.”
Back home we thank the governor for the blessings that we got.
We can gamble on the internet and it’s cool to smoke some pot.
And so y’all come visit my state And mind your etiquette.
I guarantee you’ll be welcome in Connecticut.
In his letter to Tong, Stefanowski asks whether “taxpayer dollars” were used to produce the 18-second video or whether its reference to marijuana being legal in Connecticut could be construed as a violation of the portion of Public Act 21-1 relating to advertising.
The law prohibits cannabis advertising on TV, radio, billboards, print, social media or other digital means unless 90% of the audience can reasonably be expected to be 21 or older.
“The Governor’s Office and any state agencies responsible for this video should immediately disclose to the public, the amount of taxpayer dollars spent to produce the video promoting drug use in Connecticut,” Stefanowski wrote. “If the Governor wants to talk about Connecticut etiquette, perhaps he should start by avoiding using his platform without regard for the under-age audience he influences.”
Max Reiss, the communications director for the governor, said no state funds were spent but acknowledged that the governor’s office staff did produce the video that matched footage of Lamont with the portion of the song thanking the governor for blessings that include marijuana and gambling.
“It’s a cute song. It’s satirical,” said House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, but he added he was shocked to see a gubernatorial tweet about the “blessings” of legal gambling and marijuana.
“It’s getting a visceral reaction from people, and I can understand why so,” said Candelora, who voted against the legalization of recreational marijuana. “I really don’t know what they were thinking.”
The attorney general’s office had no comment on whether the office had the jurisdiction or expertise to determine whether the governor’s tweet could be confused with an ad, whether it actually promoted pot use, or if the governor’s 90,500 followers on Twitter could reasonably be expected to include 9,050 people under the age of 21.
Instead, Tong told Stefanowski, who has previously asked the attorney general to investigate whether the firing of a Black commissioner was discriminatory, to stop using calls for an investigation as a political punchline.
“This is not the first time Bob Stefanowski has asked the Office of the Attorney General to investigate his political opponent. Bob Stefanowski is a candidate and these repeated requests — in the middle of an active campaign — are inappropriate and unethical,” Tong said. “I have made that clear to him previously. I will not allow my office, and our investigative authority, to be weaponized by a political campaign. As Attorney General, I represent the Governor in his official capacity, without regard to the Governor’s party affiliation. Were Mr. Stefanowski the Governor, I would take the same position as I do now.”
The governor’s campaign reacted as seriously to Stefanowski’s letter as Stefanowski’s campaign reacted to the governor’s tweet.
Jake Lewis, a spokesman for Lamont’s campaign, said Stefanowski was trying to distract voters from examining his differences with the governor on abortion, gun control and other issues.
“It’s disappointing that Bob is lying but not surprising given how much he is trying to distract from his extreme positions like opposing gun control measures, supporting the NRA, fundraising with ultraconservative anti-choice and anti-LGBT Governors, and supporting the anti-choice judges Trump put on the Supreme Court,” Lewis said. “This is just another issue where Bob is out of touch with the majority of Connecticut.”
Lamont signed the measure a year ago, making the possession of 1.5 ounces of marijuana legal as of July 1, 2021, a step in a journey that began with the decriminalization of small amounts of cannabis in 2011 followed by legalization of medical marijuana in 2012.
“The war on cannabis, which was at its core a war on people in Black and brown communities, not only caused injustices and increased disparities in our state, it did little to protect public health and safety,” Lamont said after the bill’s passage.
So, is the legalization of recreational marijuana a new issue in Connecticut’s race for governor?
Stefanowski’s campaign had no immediate comment on whether Stefanowski was opposed to the bill Lamont signed.
Gear could not be reached about his intentions or inspiration for the piece. The state office of tourism had solicited ideas for promoting Connecticut, but it did not run a contest for the first-ever Connecticut country song, said David Lehman, the commissioner of economic and community development.
Earlier in the tune, Gear embraces Connecticut’s claim to be the gateway to New England, albeit in a gently mocking way unlikely to be lionized by the tourism folks.
In the basement of New England Connecticut stands tall.
And looks down on Rhode Island for being ornery and small.
But songs about my state are hard to find; Nobody sings ‘Connecticut on my mind.’