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Who will it be for governor, the has-been or never-was?

Governor of Connecticut was a job nobody in either party wanted this year so Connecticut’s voters were offered the leftovers and will make one of them governor next Tuesday.

The polls indicate the battle between the Democratic has-been and the Republican never-was could go either way, with maybe a slight edge in this one-party state to the Democrat and maybe not. It’s as if it doesn’t matter, probably because it doesn’t. Neither has gone beyond base-pleasing talk to offer real solutions to Connecticut’s serious problems. 

Ned Lamont, who last excited and inspired the electorate as an anti-war candidate a dozen years ago, will be the elected successor to Dannel Malloy if the voters reward two terms of Democratic failure with a third chance. This in a state where the current Democratic governor is considerably less popular than even Donald Trump.

Then again, it may turn out the winner will be Bob Stefanowski, a heretofore unknown Republican with a record of not voting and enough money to get his name recognized in a crowded primary of obscure candidates.   It’s not inaccurate to say that only a very small number of those voting ever heard of him six months ago and now he’s become a pseudo savior.

 

The Republicans’ state convention did endorse Democrat Mark Boughton, a mayor with a good record and some political knowledge, only to have him defeated in a primary restricted to party members by Stefanowski’s well financed onslaught of misleading commercials. He won with the votes of just 29 percent of the 143,000 Republicans who voted in their closed primary.

The Democratic convention and primary had very limited choices and concluded that Lamont would be preferable to the mayor of Bridgeport, best known for going to prison for stealing from Bridgeport and getting elected there again when he got out.  As a result, Lamont beat his only competitor, Mayor Joe Ganim, with 81 percent of the Democratic votes cast in their closed primary. Connecticut’s 800,000 unaffiliated voters had no say in the selection of either party’s candidates. In 23 states, they do.

 

An Oct. 10 Quinnipiac poll and other respectable polls  like Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball and Nate Silver’s 538, predicted a Lamont victory—although they’ve been wrong in the past: See 2016. But the more recent measurement of the state’s voters last week by Sacred Heart University and the Hearst papers indicates Lamont’s earlier lead is down to 3.4 percentage points, also known as a statistical tie.

The Republican and Democratic candidates  also have unflattering approval rates in common. But Oz Griebel, the independent in the race who sometimes appears better qualified than the big boys, does worse. Seventy-two percent of likely voters in the Q Poll say they don’t know enough about him to have an opinion, mainly because he didn’t have the money to introduce himself until way too late in the campaign. He attracted 11 percent of the voters in the earlier poll and dropped to 8 percent last week.  

These worthies have appeared in highly uninformative debates devoted mostly to avoiding credible explanations of how they would deal with Connecticut’s years-long economic crisis.

No one has faced the hard choices that must be made before the state falls into economic chaos although Stefanowski’s insistence he can eliminate the source of half of the state’s income—the income tax—in eight years looks like a crowd pleaser. He ignores the fact that fixed costs—the debt, pensions, retiree health care and Medicaid — account for more than 53 percent of state spending in the coming fiscal year. Lamont seems content to spend as usual without regard for economic realities.

 

The wise political observer and columnist Chris Powell summed up this election nicely after the Connecticut Broadcasters Association scheduled its debate of the three major candidates for the afternoon “because the debate showed that none of the candidates is ready for prime time, though one will be governor anyway.”

So, what’s a voter to do? I’ve been considering a vote for Griebel as a way of letting both parties know we no longer believe in their ability to nominate viable candidates in their closed primaries. Not that they’ll care.  

 

Simsbury resident Dick Ahles is a retired journalist. Email him at rahles1@outlook.com.