Stefanowski considering lawsuit after losing second line on November ballot
The Republican candidate for governor, Bob Stefanowski, is threatening a lawsuit after losing his bid for a second line on the November ballot. The move is a major setback for Stefanowski, since Gov. Ned Lamont has already a secured a second line.
Instead of cross-endorsing Stefanowski, the Independent Party of Connecticut nominated its own candidate at a chaotic caucus Tuesday night. The nomination came after a 79-79 deadlock, with party chair Mike Telesca casting a tie-breaking vote for Rob Hotaling. Two provisional ballots that were not counted also went to Hotaling.
"I get to break the tie," Telesca told the crowd, which included Stefanowski, running mate Laura Devlin and top campaign staff. "I'm going to vote for who our State Central Committee has endorsed. And this is Rob Hotaling."
Hotaling is a banker from Cheshire. He appeared on this weekend's "Connecticut Power and Politics."
"Most Americans, and most Connecticut voters, are looking for a third option," Hotaling told host Eric Landskroner. "Why? Because the two major parties have just not solved enough problems."
Stefanowski's campaign says the Independent Party vote was illegitimate and is now considering legal options.
"Chairman Telesca has no authority to break a tie. If a candidate does not achieve 51-percent of the vote, a re-vote is to be held," campaign spokesman Chris Russell said in a statement. "It's questionable as to whether he could vote once, let alone twice.''
Russell also said Stefanowski's name should have been printed on caucus ballots, since the campaign submitted the proper paperwork.
Why so much fuss over a minor political party? Because a second line on the ballot can be a game-changer. In 2010, it helped Dannel Malloy squeak out a win over Tom Foley. In 2018, the Independent Party snagged Stefanowski an extra 25,388 votes. Lamont's Working Families Party line nabbed the Democrat 17,861 more votes.
This year, Lamont will once again have a second line thanks to a WFP endorsement.
This all comes amid a major shake-up on the Stefanowski campaign. Veteran GOP strategist Liz Kurantowicz recently departed over "strategic differences." Stefanowski's new campaign manager is "No Tolls Connecticut" leader Pat Sasser, who is also a Stamford firefighter. The campaign also hired Larry Weitzner of Jamestown Associates as a television consultant. Weitzner consulted Stefanowski's failed 2018 gubernatorial bid. He's advised moderate Republicans like outgoing Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, but also more conservative candidates like Donald Trump.
Lamont took note of the shuffles after an event on Monday.
"It's obviously a change in direction, implying that something's not working right now," he said. "And I hope we keep it positive; I hope we keep to the issues."
The race is already negative -- on both sides. The Democratic Governors Association just poured an extra $350,000 into it, so get ready for even more negative ads.