Gubernatorial candidates debate taxes, transportation and economy at UConn

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Connecticut’s three major gubernatorial candidates debated issues ranging from retaining Connecticut’s population to implementing tolls on highways at the University of Connecticut Tuesday night.

Democrat Ned Lamont, Republican Bob Stefanowski and Independent Oz Griebel drew a packed crowd to Jorgensen Auditorium for Connecticut’s third gubernatorial debate, where they were asked what their first executive order would be as Connecticut’s next governor.

“I’m going to focus on the economy, taxes, regulations, getting the economy moving,” Stefanowski said. “This state is on an absolute fiscal cliff, we’re going to call a state of emergency. My executive order would be to reverse exactly what Dan Malloy has been doing for the last eight years.”

Lamont said he didn’t believe Connecticut’s current economy warrants a state of emergency but said he will listen to various groups of people when trying to improve it, mentioning a Stefanowski ad that quoted Lamont saying, “everyone is going to have to do a little bit more.”

“You’re right, everybody’s going to have to do a little bit more,” Lamont said. “Labor’s going to be at the table, business will be at the table, Republicans and Democrats, small business. I want to get these (groups) together.”

Griebel told the crowd that rather than focusing on the intricacies of tolls or tax rates, as future governor he would ensure that the money people pay to the state is put to good use.

“This debate is not about tolls or not,” Griebel said. “It’s about making sure you understand that things like the gasoline tax or tolls or income tax go to services that you would want.”

When asked to give President Trump’s performance a grade, Griebel gave him a D+, Lamont gave him an F and Stefanowski said he separates Trump’s personality from his policies.

“I don’t like the tweets, but his economic policies, lowering taxes, we could use some of that here,” Stefanowski said.

The candidates were also asked whether they are in favor of the state banning plastic bags and straws, to which Lamont responded yes, Stefanowski responded no and Griebel said it should be an eventual goal.

Mark Stewart, who is running for governor as a member of the Americans for Minimal Government party, was not one of the candidates on stage but said he attended the debate to get his message across.

“(The Americans for Minimal Government) is my idea, a few others are behind it, and we literally had to petition our way onto the ballot,” Stewart said. “So the idea resonates with at least 11,000 people. That’s how many people I needed to be on the ballot.”

Stewart describes himself as “socially permissive but fiscally conservative.”

“I’d legalize weed, I’d legalize prostitution, I have no issue with people doing what they want, marrying who they want,” Stewart said. “But fiscally conservative, I think that’s an issue that most young, successful people want. I’m the first candidate that could be described that way.”

Stewart said he hopes people know his candidacy is serious.

“When I get the chance to stand beside Ned and Bob, if you say devoid of party, who’s really going to be good for the state, I might come out ahead,” Stewart said. “So I want to do everything I can to make sure I’m seen as someone on their level.”

Third-semester accounting major Damon Reynolds said he attended the debate because he believes it’s important to hear the candidates’ plans for UConn.

“We need to work towards a governor who will implement a new plan, a new vision for the future of Connecticut, so that the next generation will have the jobs, will have the resources and opportunities, not just at UConn but at the state level, so that they can stay here past graduation and be able to give back to the state,” Reynolds said.

Third-semester political science and communications double major Fiorella Contreras said, though she can’t vote, she came to the debate because she is interested in the upcoming midterm elections.

“(Because) I can’t vote, I think it is my responsibility to go out there and get informed and educate people who can vote,” Contreras said.

First-semester political science major John Kelly and first-semester pre-pharmacy major Nitya Bhattarai said they didn’t particularly like any of the candidates.

“All the candidates were pretty bad, they don’t seem like they’re focused on real policy or are pro-Connecticut and its middle class citizens,” Kelly said.

“They all kind of seemed like the cookie-cutter Independent, Republican and Democrat and I was hoping for something else,” Bhattarai said.


Gabriella DeBenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at gabriella.debenedictis@uconn.edu.

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