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If elected Connecticut governor, Bob Stefanowski says people will 'live their lives as they see fit'

Connecticut Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski talks with Where We Live host Lucy Nalpathanchil during his interview September 06, 2022.
Mark Mirko
Connecticut Public
Connecticut Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski talks with "Where We Live" host Lucy Nalpathanchil during his interview Sept. 6, 2022.

Labor Day is over and election season is now in full swing in Connecticut.

For Republican Bob Stefanowski, it’s his second time running for governor against incumbent Democrat Ned Lamont. In 2018, he lost by 3.2 percentage points or about 40,000 votes.

Stefanowski is a former business executive who says he wants to make Connecticut more affordable and safer. Speaking on Connecticut Public Radio’sWhere We Live, he called attention to parental rights, education and issues of affordability in the state.

Stefanowski said he will bring fiscal discipline to Connecticut and give people “the right to live their lives as they see fit.”

Note: On Thursday, Gov. Ned Lamont will appear on Where We Live.

Here are some highlights from Connecticut Public’s interview with Stefanowski.

Stefanowski said the government is ‘getting in the way’ of parents and their children

Stefanowski said “parents should be making the decisions about where their kids go to school. Parents should be making the decision about what social issues to talk to their kids about when they're in grade school.”

While Stefanowski didn’t specify Tuesday morning which “kitchen table issues” parents should be discussing with kids at home, he said his positions on education are “not about arguing with teachers.”

“It’s working with teachers,” he said. “It’s about working collaboratively with parents to teach reading, writing and arithmetic. And that’s what our schools need to get back to.”

Later Tuesday, Stefanowski released his “parental bill of rights,” which he said should let families – not school districts – decide when it is appropriate to discuss sex education with young children. The Republican also said in a statement that parents should have more control over decisions like vaccines and masking requirements in schools, but he did not go into specifics.

Currently, the state Department of Education is updating the state social studies standards to be more inclusive and state-specific. Stefanowski said “racism is part of our history. We need to teach kids about that.” But said he doesn’t believe “in assuming that kids are guilty just because of our history.”

He also said he wants to see more technology and money for school security and called attention to teacher shortages facing some districts, saying, “if we have to pay teachers more to get good teachers, we should be doing it.”

“I’m a free market person,” Stefanowski said. “If there’s not enough teachers, that means there’s a reason for that. Either it’s a lack of respect, or a lack of pay, or, I’ll even say it, a lack of a good pension program.”

Stefanowski said taxes are slowing the economy, while a budget surplus piles up

Stefanowski pledged to eliminate so-called “nuisance taxes,” which he says are crippling the state’s economy. He said Lamont needs to do more to help residents struggling with inflation and a high cost of living.

“We should get rid of the diesel tax until the end of the year,” he said. “We should lower the sales tax rate.”

Earlier this year, Democrats and Lamont ordered more than $660 million in tax relief, which is one of the largest tax relief plans in state history. But about half of the relief is one-time in nature.

Then there is the issue of the budget surplus. This year, Connecticut reported a massive $4.3 billion budget surplus. Stefanowski said it should be allocated “back to taxpayers.”

“I don’t know why [Lamont] won’t give some of it back to us. He should, particularly when people can’t afford to buy gas and food,” Stefanowski said.

Lamont has used much of that surplus to chip away at the state’s nearly $40 billion pool of pension debt. Democrats believe that will reduce future pension contributions and free up more money for programs or tax relief.

Stefanowski said “the pension plan is an issue, but I wouldn’t say it’s priority one right now.”

In 2018, Stefanowski also pledged conditionally to get rid of the income tax. This year, that plan seems to have fallen by the wayside.

“What we realized over the last four years – income tax is important, but just as important is the property tax, the car tax,” Stefanowski said. “Would I like to get the income tax down over time? Absolutely. But it’s much broader than just the income tax.”

Stefanowski says he ‘absolutely’ supports abortion rights

Stefanowski has released a television ad highlighting how he and his Democratic opponent “are both pro-choice.”

“I absolutely support a woman’s right to choose,” Stefanowski said. “Roe v. Wade is codified in Connecticut state law. That’s the way it’s going to stay. I will fight to keep that law in place. It’s as simple as that.”

Abortion has become an increasingly partisan issue over recent decades, but public views have always been more shades of gray.

Typically, support for abortion rights is highest for women in the earliest stages of pregnancy and tapers off as the pregnancy advances, until it is lowest for abortions very close to delivery, said Jocelyn Kiley of the Pew Research Center. Still, exceptions for rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother are popular at all stages.

On why he’s suing after losing the Independent Party endorsement for Conn. governor

In August, Stefanowski lost the gubernatorial nomination of the Independent Party, which effectively denied the Republican “a cross endorsement and second line on the November ballot,” according to the CT Mirror.

Stefanowski was the party’s endorsed candidate in 2018, but he still lost that election.

As a result of the recent vote, Stefanowski is now challenging the nomination, suing the state and the Connecticut Independent Party, arguing voting rules were not properly followed.

Stefanowski said he doesn’t believe he needs that cross endorsement to win the race, but “we’re just going to see what the courts say and we’ll live with it.”

Stefanowski says local towns should have a say in affordable housing developments

A Connecticut zoning law, known as Section 8-30g, aims to reverse years and years of housing discrimination by setting a goal that 10% of a town’s housing stock be affordable. If that’s not the case, developers may propose plans that may circumvent local zoning regulations.

The law set off debate across Connecticut, with some residents fearing that large residential developments may alter the “character” of communities, according toThe New York Times.

Stefanowski said residents shouldn’t have to move out of cities to get access to affordable housing. But where affordable units go, he said, should be a matter for local leaders to decide.

“The local towns should have the first say in this,” Stefanowski said. “We need to hold them accountable for 10%,” he said, but “it’s got to be the right balance between the town and giving developers all the power.”

Citing low numbers of state troopers, Stefanowski briefly speaks on crime

Stefanowski cited low numbers of state troopers and said Lamont “doesn’t want to talk about crime” in Connecticut.

In 2021, FBI statistics showed that Connecticut had the fourth-lowest violent crime rate in the nation, but a property crime rate "that was higher than 14 states,” according to theHartford Courant.

Long-term data show that crime rates are trending down.

Across America, violent crime today is down when compared to federal data from the 1980s and 1990s. But recent years brought spikes of homicides and gun violence to some communities.

Watch the full interview:

This story contains information from the Associated Press.

Updated: September 6, 2022 at 12:53 PM EDT
This story has been updated.
Lucy leads Connecticut Public's strategies to deeply connect and build collaborations with community-focused organizations across the state.
Katie is a producer for Connecticut Public Radio's news-talk show 'Where We Live.' She has previously worked for CNN and News 8-WTNH.
Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.