Chief Justice Richard Robinson Blog
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.
Primary Field begins to take shape
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 and Bysiewicz team up
At a joint press conference in New Haven today, Susan Bysiewicz formally announced that she will be joining Ned Lamont as his running mate. Bysiewicz, who was running for Governor said she thought part unity was important going into the democratic state convention this Saturday. With the exit of Bysiewicz, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim and former Veteran Affairs Commissioner Sean Conolly are the only democrats besides Lamont competing in the convention. Businessman Guy Smith will be skipping the convention and is currently trying to petition his way on to the ballot. While they say they are a team, the primary races for Governor and Lieutenant Governor are separate races. There are no other Democrats seeking the Lieutenant Governor nomination, New Haven Senator Gary Winfield has expressed interest in running. Many Democratic insiders were disappointed in the choice of Bysiewicz as Lamont’s running mate saying they wanted a more diverse ticket. Both Bysiewicz and Lamont said they will be committed to building a diverse administration if elected. Bysiewicz, who has served in the State Legislature and as Secretary of the State brings the necessary state government experience to Ned Lamont. The announcement came as a shock to many who were anticipating Bysiewicz to enter an August primary for Governor.
Boughton wins endorsement
After months of waiting and speculation, Mark Boughton won the Republican endorsement at the state convention at Foxwoods Resort and Casino. With a field of 10 candidates it was difficult to know who would make it to the primary. While the state convention is a place where candidates can qualify for the primary, it is really a place for Republicans to gather and hopefully unify for the general election. This was not the case yesterday at Foxwoods. There are 10 candidates vying for the Republican nomination. However, only 8 candidates participated in the convention. Greenwich businessman David Stemerman and Madison businessman Bob Stefanowski choose to bypass the convention and collect 10,000 signatures from registered Republicans to qualify for the primary. The candidates who participated in the convention were Mark Boughton, Mike Handler, Tim Herbst, Mark Lauretti, Peter Lumaj, Steve Obsitnik, Prasad Srinivasan, and David Walker. To qualify for the primary at the convention candidates needed to receive at least 15% of the delegate vote on any of the ballots cast. A change from previous conventions was that in order to move on after the first vote, a candidate needed to receive at least 8% of the vote and 15% after the second vote. As the first ballot was underway candidates were scrambling across the convention floor trying to make deals and retain as well as gain delegate support. After the first ballot the field thinned to 6 people. Mike Handler only received around 4% of the vote and State Representative Prasad Srinivasan missed the threshold by 1 vote with 7.94%. Srinivasan endorsed Tim Herbst for Governor while Handler may try to collect signatures to get to the primary. On this ballot both Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst qualified for the primary. The excitement continued as the second round of voting started. With 6 people remaining it would be a tall order for a candidate to receive the needed 50% for the endorsement on this ballot. The surprise from this ballot was the vote tally of Steve Obsitnik. The Westport tech entrepreneur and Naval veteran was able to receive just under 18% of the vote, qualifying for the August primary. Former US Comptroller General David Walker, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, Peter Lumaj were all eliminated in the second ballot. Lauretti is considering a petition drive while Lumaj and Walker ruled out the option. The balloting for Governor began at 1pm and it was approaching 6pm as the third ballot started. Delegates were tired and many wished to spend some time at the casino just steps away. Steve Obsitnik, Mark Boughton, and Tim Herbst all made it to the third ballot. As the third ballot went on it looked like they would have to do a fourth ballot to get an endorsement. This is when the real excitement started. After the third ballot was completed Boughton and Herbst had around 40% each with Obsitnik at 20%. As the rules stated, delegates could switch their vote after the regular voting was complete on the ballot. Slowly Mark Boughton started to gain delegates from Herbst and Obsitnik. Boughton eventually reached 50.14% of the vote which is 1.5 votes more than he needed. In order for Boughton to get the endorsement their needs to be a vote to close balloting for Governor. This is when chaos began. Herbst supporters were yelling “NO” very loud for the vote. In order to see what the vote was the room was cleared of all people besides delegates and media. A standing count vote was done and Boughton received the nomination. The third time was the charm for Boughton who has ran for the office three times now. The endorsement gives Boughton the top spot on the ballot and a lot of momentum. Herbst and Obsitnik also qualified for the August 14th primary. It is expected to be a crowded primary with a few more expected to gather signatures. Democrats are meeting next Friday at the Hartford Convention Center and Saturday for their state convention.
Ned Lamont Blog
On May 7, I had the opportunity to interview Ned Lamont. He is running for Governor and is seen by many as the frontrunner on the democratic side. With his background as a wealthy businessman from Greenwich, he does not strike you as the average democratic candidate. However, he is the most progressive out of all the candidates and has the backing of organizations such as the AFL-CIO as well as the support from New Haven Mayor Toni Harp and Attorney General George Jepsen. In our discussion I asked him why he wants to be Governor. It is a thankless job and involves countless hours with very little breaks. Lamont said he like others to have the same experience he has had in the state. He cites the lack of young people coming to the state as an issue. How is he going to fix that? Well, he says it will take time and will involve focus on our major cities. When asked why a wealthy man from Greenwich like him should be the nominee and how he can relate with the average citizen he said he has it in his heart and cited his work as a teacher at Harding High school in Bridgeport. When I met Ned Lamont in Woodbridge for the interview I was not surprised how popular he is. Very cordial and friendly he comes off as someone that you would want to talk to and have a conversation with. He is very frank and open and is not afraid to answer the tough questions.
As with all major candidates, he came with a mini entourage. Patty McQueen, who runs Lamont’s communications scheduled the interview. While I was not able to meet her, I was impressed by her roster of clients that has included Al Gore in 2000 as well as Nancy Wyman in 2010. Steve Jensen arrived before Lamont and was one of the nicest staffers I have met while doing various interviews. As we waited for Ned, I had a great conversation with Steve who served as Nancy Wyman’s press secretary for 17 years as Comptroller and Lieutenant Governor and now works for the campaign. Ned arrived with another campaign staffer named Jay Lewis who was very nice and welcoming.
As for most of my interviews, Ned arrived a few minutes late. I will be honest that I have waited much longer for other people who I will not name out of respect. Coming out of this interview, I think Ned Lamont will be the democratic nominee for Governor. While Susan Bysiewicz and Joe Ganim may be there for a primary in August I argue this is Ned’s race to lose. With a toss up for the republican nomination I cannot make a prediction for the general election.
David M. Walker Blog
On Monday August 14th I had the opportunity to meet with former United States Comptroller General David M. Walker. Dave is a republican candidate for Governor in 2018. Dave has a very interesting backstory. He was born in Alabama and has lived in several states since then. He then went on to receive his B.S. in accounting from Jacksonville University and a Senior Management in Government Certificate in public policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Dave first worked in accounting for several years for firms such as Arthur Andersen LLP. Dave has been confirmed unanimously three times by the U.S. Senate, which included serving in the labor department during the Reagan administration. In 1998, Bill Clinton nominated Dave as the United States Comptroller General. He was confirmed unanimously by the senate. The Comptroller General is the head of the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The Comptroller General’s job is to ensure the fiscal and managerial accountability of the federal government. In the interview, Dave talks more about the appointment process, the responsibilities of the Comptroller General, and some of the things he accomplished while he was in the office. In 2010 Dave stepped down from the job and went on to serve on various foundations and initiatives that worked to make sure the federal government was spending, and using their money wisely. Dave is now a candidate for governor and wants to turn around the state. He talks more about his campaign and how he will turn around the state in the interview. I interviewed Dave at 5pm at his house on the water in the black rock section of Bridgeport. As I arrived, he was wrapping up a meeting with one of his campaign staffers. Dave was very welcoming and we talked for a while before and after the interview. My interview setup looked very good. I had a model of a ship and the ocean behind Dave and I. The interview lasted a little over 20 minutes and I asked him about many issues facing the state as well as more about his career and personal life. I really enjoyed my interview with David M. Walker and I wish him luck on the campaign trail.
Chris Mattei Interview Blog
On Tuesday, August 8th I had the opportunity to interview Chris Mattei, who is exploring a run for Governor of Connecticut. Chris has an interesting back story. He was born and raised in Windsor, CT and then attended Georgetown University and Uconn Law School. He originally wanted to be a teacher and taught English on A Navajo reservation in Arizona. He then became a lawyer and served as the Assistant United States Attorney for the State of Connecticut and then the Chief of the Financial Fraud and Public Corruption unit in the district of Connecticut. As a prosecutor, Chris sent former CT Governor John Rowland to prison for the second time. I really enjoyed meeting Chris and he was really nice and interesting. Chris arrived with one of his campaign staffers Connor. I coordinated the interview with another of his staffer’s named Maryli. We first talked a little with my Dad about him, his life, and a little about sports. Chris said that he was a big Whalers fan and hoped he could get them to move back to Connecticut. The interview went really well and he had great answers. I asked him about the trial of John Rowland, working as a teacher, why he is running for Governor, tolls, tax increases, and much more. The interview lasted just under twenty minutes, which is around the time it takes for most of my interviews.
That same day, I went to watch Chris speak to the Woodbridge Democratic Committee. I have never been to one of these meetings before and I was surprised to see how tense it gets. The Chairwoman of the board has decided to challenge Denise Merril for the Democratic nomination for Secretary of State. This got many Woodbridge Democrats upset because they felt that it showed that it could hurt the Democrats chance of winning the seat and that it would look bad for a divide in the party. After 30 minutes of bickering Chris finally got up and talked for around 15 minutes. He talked about many issues and his plan to fix Connecticut’s financial crisis. the Woodbridge Democratic Town Committee seemed to like him and they were interested in his candidacy. I thoroughly enjoyed my interview with Chris Mattei and I hope to speak with him again.
John Larson Interview Blog
On August 1st I had the opportunity to sit down with Congressman John Larson of Connecticut’s 1st Congressional district. The 1st district is made up of cities such as Hartford, Bristol, and Torrington. Preparing for an interview is something that takes a lot of time and focus. The first step in preparing is to just watch some of the person’s past interviews, speeches, and other appearances. Before you even start to write questions you want to know the person very well. You also need to know a lot about them. You need to know about legislation they have sponsored, candidates they have endorsed, as well as past positions they have held in government. After all of that is done I begin to write my questions. I try to focus my questions on their past experiences and struggles, statewide issues, as well as national issues such as healthcare and tax reform. Once my questions are written I read them over multiple times so that I am familiar with them during the interview. The interview was scheduled at 3 pm. I arrived in Hartford at the Congressman’s office at around 2:40 and I took the elevator up to the second floor where his office was. I have been to many congressional offices and all of them are very nice. There is generally a secretary at the front then various office spaces, conference rooms, and then the Congressman’s office. The man at the front desk brought me to a conference room and I began to set up. My setup consists of 3 tripods, 2 lavalier microphones, 2 iPads (for audio recording), Canon EOS 60D camera, iPhone as a camera, as well as an iPad as a camera. As I was setting up Mary, Congressman Larson’s Press Secretary, walked in. Mary was very nice and she helped find a date for the interview and was my contact inside the office. Mary also brought in two interns that watched my interview with the Congressman. Congressman Larson arrived just on time and was very welcoming. Congressman Larson is also very nice and friendly to his staff and you can tell he takes the time to remember the names of all of his staff even the interns. Before the interview, I talked to the Congressman a little about myself and my show. Congressman Larson gave me a very nice congressional pen and mechanical pencil. I also gave him a Raving Ryan mug, as I do with all of the people I interview. Congressman Larson gave very interesting answers to all of my questions. He told me about being in the state senate and how it prepared him very well for being in congress, health care and what parts of the Affordable Care Act he thinks needs to be placed, tax reform and an update on the tax reform bills being proposed, as well as some of his hobbies and favorite restaurants. After the interview, we talked and he told me why he thinks public service is an amazing thing. He told me that giving back to the community is such a great thing. I really enjoyed my interview with Congressman Larson and I hope you all take the time to watch it under interviews on this website.