VOTE 2022: Vaccine mandates become issue in race for governor

Democrats are criticizing Bob Stefanowski, the Republican candidate for governor, for meeting with an anti-vaccine group over the weekend.
Stefanowski and other GOP candidates attended a meet-and-greet Friday evening with Connecticut Residents Against Medical Mandates. According to the state Democratic Party, who claims a representative attended the event, Stefanowski told the group he is in regular contact with them.
According to a CT Dems spokesperson, Stefanowski said: “[CRAMM founder] Kate [Prokop] and I like probably talk every couple of weeks about various issues around the state. I've talked to your board several times by videoconference, I want to thank you guys, for your support.”
Stefanowski’s campaign did not confirm his attendance or the veracity of his alleged comments.
Tuesday morning, Democrats slammed Stefanowski, calling CRAMM a “radical group.”
"Bob is courting extreme groups that espouse ideas that will endanger our public health,” said Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz.
"I'm being blunt,” added state Sen. Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor), a pulmonologist who has treated COVID patients. “Their misinformation has led to deaths, and unfortunately many of the times in their own families and friends."
Stefanowski has attended similar events before, including the CT Liberty Rally’s “Freedom Family Cookout” in May.
The GOP candidate says he personally supports vaccines, but also told CT Mirror he believes Connecticut should bring back religious exemptions for school immunizations. The state banned them last year.
In a statement Tuesday, Stefanowski said: "I don't mind the daily campaign attacks from Governor Lamont and his Lieutenant Governor because people know they are not true. I just wish Mr. Lamont would spend less time campaigning and at least some time helping people to get through the highest inflation in 40 years, rising food prices and out of control crime.”
Stefanowski noted he passed out 1.5 million masks in 2020. Democrats called it a political stunt.
"When it was politically correct to wear a mask and to get a mask, Mr. Stefanowski made sure that he got masks,” said Martha Marx, a nurse who’s also running for state Senate in New London.
Vaccine questions have dogged Stefanowski before. In 2018, a leaked video surfaced in which he questioned childhood school vaccinations.
In the video, Stefanowski was asked whether the state, or local school systems, should decide vaccine requirements. His reply was, "I think it depends on the vaccination. I mean, you know, we shouldn't be dumping a lot of drugs into kids for no reason. And certainly, if you want to home-school your kid, you should be allowed to do it. And if you don't want to vaccinate your kid at home, then you should be allowed to not vaccinate."
The question is: Are vaccines a "shot in the arm" for Lamont's campaign?
Prokop said "In three weeks, thousands of Connecticut children will be banned from school because Democrats removed religious freedom in Connecticut. Many of these children have older siblings who can attend school because they were “grandfathered” in. Rather than attacking Stefanowski and parent choice groups, shouldn’t Democrats be focused on the impact of their unfair, inhumane and politically motivated legislation which is breaking up Connecticut families and keeping children out of school?"