Lamont to Take Charge of Connecticut on January 9th


After winning two months ago, Ned Lamont will be sworn in as the 89th Governor of Connecticut on Wednesday, January 9th . Lamont, 65, will take over a projected state budget deficit of $1.7 billion. Lamont is ambitious to govern and says he will start working hard to fix the state’s problems on day one. Ruling out income tax hikes and tolls for cars Lamont says he will likely add truck only tolls and will create a better relationship with the business community. Expectations for Lamont are high but some are questioning if he will be able to deliver. The deficit is projected to increase and Lamont will have to make tough decisions to balance the budget.

Lamont has already began to assemble a staff. He named Ryan Drajewicz as his Chief of Staff. Drajewicz is a native of Connecticut and worked for former Senator Chris Dodd before taking a job with Stamford based Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world. Lamont also named Melissa McCaw as the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management. McCaw, the former CFO for Hartford, will oversee the state budget and work with Lamont to create a budget. Lamont created a new role for his administration, the Chief Operating Officer. He named Paul Mounds to serve as a liaison between state departments and agencies. Other high profile appointments include Colleen Flanagan Johnson as a Senior Advisor, Maribel La Cruz as Communications Director, Chris Soto as Director of Legislative Affairs, Joe Giulietti as Commissioner of the Department of Transportation, and Rollin Cook as the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections

What is clear in Lamont’s picks for his staff and leaders of state agencies is that Lamont wants new and experienced people to work for him. Lamont has chosen people from both the private and public sector for his senior staff. Drajewicz as Chief of Staff brings an approach from someone who has worked for both a private corporation and the government. Joe Giulietti as the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation will bring a new perspective to the department. Giulietti previously served as President of Metro-North Railroad and has worked on transportation projects all across the country. Rollin Cook, who previously headed the corrections department in Utah, brings an immense amount of experience in criminal justice and prison reform to the Corrections Department in Connecticut.

Ned Lamont has a herculean task in front of him. All eyes are on him and the people of Connecticut need him to deliver. It is important that the people of Connecticut understand that change will not happen quickly. It can only happen slowly over time and the people of the state need to be patient and proactive.    



Ned Lamont wins as Democrats dominate in Connecticut

Ned Lamont celebrates with running mate Susan Bysiewicz before delivering victory speech

It was not until over twelve hours after the polls closed that voters in Connecticut found out who their next Governor would be. After hours of waiting due to issues with voter registration in New Haven and wet ballots across the state, Ned Lamont won the election to be Connecticut’s Governor. With 95% of the vote in Lamont beat Bob Stefanowski 48.6% to 46.9%. Lamont was likely elevated by the extremely high turnout. 65.6% of eligible voters voted. Turnout was up almost 10% from the 2014 Gubernatorial race.

Bob Stefanowski called Ned Lamont to concede Tuesday morning and then publicly conceded on “Chaz and AJ” on WPLR. Stefanowski thanked his supporters and congratulated Ned Lamont on a fair and square and well-fought race. Stefanowski also offered to help Lamont in any way to get the state back on track. Ned Lamont first appeared publicly as the Governor-Elect at noon at Dunkin Donuts Park. In a brief speech, Lamont thanked his supporters, campaign staff, and Bob Stefanowski for a well-run campaign. Lamont said he would take Tuesday to reflect and relax but would be up early on Wednesday to begin the transition.

The Democrats managed to keep control of all of the state’s constitutional offices. William Tong was elected Attorney General, Shawn Wooden was elected State Treasurer, Denise Merrill was re-elected as Secretary of State, and Kevin Lembo was re-elected as Comptroller. In what seemed to be a good opportunity for Republicans to take the Governor’s mansion and the State Legislature, the Democrats maintained control of both branches. The Democrats broke the 18-18 tie in the Senate and now control 24 of the 36 seats. In the House, the Democrats picked up 12 seats and now control 92 of the 151 seats.

Lamont will take office on January 9th and is expected to begin the transition soon. Governor Malloy congratulated his former 2010 opponent and said he plans to meet with the Governor-Elect later this week.    



Chief Justice Richard Robinson Interview

        Before my interview with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Connecticut Richard Robinson, I had not had a personal interaction with a judge. Judges are not always the most approachable person for the average person. The sense of superiority and power creates the false narrative that judges are not like normal people. Chief Justice Robinson is one of the most approachable, funny, and intelligent people that I have ever met. His knowledge of the law and his passion for his job were evident when I interviewed him. Chief Justice Robinson talked about his extensive career in the judicial system serving on the Superior, Appellate, and Supreme Courts in the state. His humbleness and openness were astonishing. He never thought he would become the first African American Chief Justice of the state’s court, but he is honored to serve. Richard Robinson’s career is incredible and he has done so much for the judicial system but what I found the most interesting was his life outside of the court. His main hobby is Karate. The Chief Justice is a fourth-degree black belt but his wife is an even more impressive sixth-degree black belt. The Chief Justice also listed Pepe’s as his favorite place for Pizza and talked about what it is like to tell people he is the Chief Justice of the court. I thoroughly enjoyed my interview with the Chief Justice and thank him greatly for the opportunity.


Lamont and Stefanowski win primaries for Governor

After months of debates, campaign appearances, and television advertisements the field for the November general election is set. In the race for Governor on the Democratic side, Ned Lamont defeated Joe Ganim with over 80% of the vote. Ganim, the Mayor of Bridgeport, was a long-shot candidate. Ganim was elected Mayor of Bridgeport in 2015 for the second time. This was after serving 7 years in prison for public corruption during his first stint as Mayor. Lamont, who ran for the Senate in 2006 and Governor in 2010, called for party unity and said he is looking forward to the general election.

With 5 candidates on the Republican side, the race was a tossup. In an upset, Madison businessman Bob Stefanowski won the 5-way contest with around 30% of the vote. Danbury Mayor Mark Bought was seen as the favorite, but only garnered around 20% of the vote and finished second. Stefanowski, who served as a top executive at General Electric and the CFO of UBS investment bank centered his campaign on eliminating the state income tax. Dozens of economists and experts have said that idea is far-fetched and would be difficult to implement.

In the race for Lieutenant Governor, Susan Bysiewicz easily defeated Eva Bermudez-Zimmerman in the Democratic primary and Joe Markley defeated Erin Stewart and Jayme Stevenson in the Republican primary. Bysiewicz previously served as the Secretary of State and was running for Governor until Ned Lamont named her his running mate in May. Joe Markley, the conservative Senator from Southington, beat the more moderate Erin Stewart and Jayme Stevenson.

For the rest of the under ticket Republican Sue Hatfield and Democrat William Tong won their primaries for Attorney General, Democrat Shawn Wooden and Republican Thad Gray won their race for Treasurer, and Republican Kurt Miller won the primary for Comptroller. Matt Corey won the Republican primary for US Senate against Dominic Rapini with over 75% of the vote. In the primary for the 5th Congressional District Republican Manny Santos won and Democrat Jahana Hayes won. Hayes, a political outsider and 2016 National Teacher of the Year, beat political insider Mary Glassman with over 60% of the vote.

The field is set and the campaigning for the general election will begin in just a few hours. The race for Governor has been listed as a toss-up by many political pundits. On November 6th the people of Connecticut will make a decision that will change the course of the state for decades. Congratulations to all the candidates that won and get ready for a long general election campaign.



Primary Field begins to take shape

From Left to Right Candidates Tim Herbst, Oz Griebel, David Stemerman, and Bob Stefanowski participate in a forum hosted by the Connecticut Tourism Coalition  . (Mark Pazniokas/CTMirror)

Beginning on May 1st, Governor hopefuls have been crisscrossing the state gathering signatures to get on the August primary ballot. Republican candidates who do not receive 15% of the delegates at the state convention have to gather around 9,000 signatures to get on the ballot. Democrats have to get around 15,000. As of Tuesday, June 19th, Republican candidates Bob Stefanowski and David Stemerman as well as Democratic Candidate Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim have qualified for the ballot. Stemerman and Stefanowski join Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, and Tech Entrepreneur Steve Obsitnik on the Republican ballot. Joe Ganim joins Ned Lamont on the Democratic side. Former Bill Clinton aide Guy Smith only has 5,000 of the 15,000 certified signatures as of Tuesday, June 19th. Smith says he has received enough signatures but they have not been sent to the Secretary of the States office from local registrar of voters. In what is a crowded race on the Republican side, voters have a choice of three outsiders and two politicians. Stefanowski, Stemerman, and Obstinik all credit their business experience in their campaigns for Governor. The race favors a politician as the three outsider candidates have not been able to differentiate themselves.


Lamont receives endorsement while delegates plot an escape

Ned Lamont celebrating with his family and running mate Susan Bysiewicz after receiving endorsement. (Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant)

All eyes were on the Democrats this weekend as they met for their state convention Friday and Saturday at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. The windowless, concrete floor room was a stark contrast to the Republican convention at Foxwoods.

The Democrats endorsed Ned Lamont for Governor, Susan Bysiewicz for Lieutenant Governor, Shawn Wooden for state treasurer, William Tong for Attorney General, Denise Merrill for Secretary of State, and Kevin Lembo for state Comptroller. Their were no surprises in the race for Governor as Ned Lamont took almost 90% of the vote. Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim missed the 15% threshold to qualify for a primary and will continue his petition drive to get on the ballot. Greenwich businessman Guy Smith attended the convention but choose to not be nominated and will try to petition his name onto the August primary.

One week ago, there were no Democrats running for Lieutenant Governor. That changed when Susan Bysiewicz decided to switch her candidacy from Governor to Lieutenant Governor. 31 year old union organizer Eva Bermudez-Zimmerman was the story of the convention receiving around 40% of the vote compared to Bysiewicz’s 59%. Zimmerman was a stranger to many delegates but was able to work the floor at the convention. State Representative Charlie Stallworth, who entered the race Friday, received just over 1% of the delegate vote. Bysiewicz will face Zimmerman in a primary in August.

In the race for Attorney General State Representative William Tong got the party endorsement but will face a primary against former prosecutor Chris Mattei.

The race for treasurer was the most crowded race with four candidates vying for the nomination. Shawn Wooden, the former President of the Hartford City Council, received the endorsement but will face Dita Bhargava and Arunan Arulampalam.

Incumbent Comptroller Kevin Lembo and Secretary of the State Denise Merrill were both easily able to receive the endorsement with no primary challengers.

There was a change in the voting for the convention. Instead of each town announcing their votes individually, the head of each town delegation entered the results electronically. This proved to be an issue at first, but party officials were able to solve any problems that existed. The new voting method took away almost all of the excitement from the convention. With no towns announcing their votes aloud, their were prolonged periods of silences as town delegation chairs waited to enter their results on the computer. With almost nothing to do and little to no entertainment some delegates left. When the nominations for State Treasurer began a large portion of delegates had left. The old method of voting where each town would announce where their votes went provided excitement and engagement.

The issue of diversity on the ticket was looming over party members. Many people were unhappy with Ned Lamont’s pick of Susan Bysiewicz as his running mate saying the party needs more diverse candidates. Eva Bermudez-Zimmerman a Puerto Rican union organizer said she brings that diversity to a ticket.

With what is looking to be a crowded primary for the Republicans, the widespread support for Lamont could be beneficial for Democrats. But many Republicans say they are happy with Lamont as the candidate calling Democrats hypocrites for criticizing wealthy self-funded Republican candidates in the past. It is going to be a summer full of television ads and door-knocking with primaries for multiple offices on both sides of the aisle. However, the question is if candidates can get voters to the polls on a hot day in August.