Published 10:52 am, Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Photo: Stephanie Kim / Hearst Connecticut Media
WILTON — Several Republican gubernatorial hopefuls visited the Wilton Republican Town Committee Tuesday night, promising to turn the state around if they were to replace Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Westport tech consultant Steve Obstinik — who lost to Democratic incumbent Rep. Jim Himes in the Congressional race for the state’s 4th District in 2012 — said he would fix the state’s problems by driving job growth, fiscal sensibility, investing in education, and rebuilding the state’s reputation as a place to live and work.
“We’ve been heading down Dan Malloy’s road for the last eight years, and that road of him and his career politicians in Hartford is a road of ruin,” Obstinik said.
Stamford CFO Mike Handler, who lives in New Canaan, said his efforts in that role since 2012 show proven results of fixing similar issues plaguing the state.
Under his leadership, the city of Stamford negotiated with unions, privatized non-core city assets and upgraded critical infrastructure, he said.
“I have the confidence to tell you we can fix our state because I just fixed the same mistakes that were made in Stamford for a long time,” Handler said.
Peter Lumaj, an immigration attorney from Fairfield, said the first few issues he’d tackle as governor would be to reform statewide agencies, the state income tax and the welfare system. He also shot down tolls and adding more taxes. And he vowed to push away “socialism (that) is coming to the United States” — which he said bears similarities to the Communist regime he fled from in his native country of Albania in the 1980s.
“If we make these changes right away, and if we go to Hartford with the character and the fortitude of dismantling the mentality that we have in Hartford right now, we can change the state around,” said Lumaj, who lost in a close race for secretary of state in 2014. “Only someone who’s a compete outsider, like I am, can make those changes.”
Greenwich real estate agent and builder Peter Thalheim preached similar messages of lowering taxes and putting a Republican back into the state’s top office. He also claimed the state is in a constitutional crisis, holding up a visual he brought with an image of Connecticut constricted by a boa constrictor representing the current administration.
“The state is so strong, it is destroying our state,” Thalheim said.
Wilton Republicans also heard from other candidates running for state office, including: former state House Republican Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. who is running for probate judge of the Norwalk-Wilton Probate Court; Thad Gray, who retired as the chief investment officer at Abbott Capital Management, to run for state treasurer; and former state Rep. John Shaban who is running for attorney general. Wilton’s Republican Registrar Annalisa Stravato spoke on behalf of Sue Hatfield, who’s exploring a run for attorney general, because she couldn’t make it to the meeting.
Connecticut Republican Party Chairman J.R. Romano commended each of the candidates for running and said it is an exciting time for the party, despite Connecticut being a blue state and recent Democratic victories in the town’s municipal elections in November.
When asked if a conservative Republican can win, Romano said yes, saying the party has candidates along the political spectrum from conservative to moderate.
He said if a candidate can express conservative values true to Republican ideals, that candidate will be able to earn support from voters. He gave the example of school choice, referring to a case involving a woman who served a five-year sentence on a charge of stealing education for sending her 6-year-old son to school in Norwalk while living in Bridgeport.
“The Connecticut Democrats didn’t stand with her in protest that she was being in jail for five years. She got sentenced to five years for trying to get a better education from the state,” Romano said. “But yet, they’ll stand with someone who isn’t even a citizen and they’ll scream and they’ll shout how wrong it is.”
“If we have a candidate that can express that — that’s a conservative value, school choice — we’ll be fine,” he added.
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