Connecticut party faithful have interesting choices for lieutenant governor

Usually the lieutenant governor half of the gubernatorial ticket does not play much of a factor in deciding the outcome, but 2018 could be different in Connecticut.

Republicans and Democrats face the prospect of fielding candidates for lieutenant governor who could fire up their bases, but also serve as targets from opponents seeking to depict the other ticket as outside of the mainstream.

On the Republican side, Sen. Joe Markley, who received the endorsement of the party convention, is a conservative whose politics might fit more easily into a deep red state than largely blue Connecticut.

Representing the 16th Senatorial District of Cheshire, Prospect, Southington, Wolcott and Waterbury, Markley would, for example, eliminate the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities if given the chance, contending the function of enforcing civil rights rests with courts.

Markley, 61, wants government to be much smaller, focused on its essential role of protecting public safety and providing the infrastructure and educational opportunities for individuals and businesses to compete and progress, or fail.

When in 2016 the legislature passed a law to require “affirmative consent” as the new standard on all Connecticut college campuses when adjudicating allegations of sexual assault, putting the burden on a student accused of sexual misconduct to demonstrate he obtained consent, Markley cast the lone no vote in the Senate. Not government’s job, Markley concluded.

He does, however, want government to require parental consent for a minor seeking an abortion.

This fealty to current conservative doctrine makes Markley the darling of bedrock conservatives, the kind of folks who make sure to vote in primaries. But Markley’s place on the general election ballot would make it easier to link the ticket to Washington Republicans and to President Trump.

Strategically, the party could well be better off selecting either New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart or Darien First Selectwoman Jayme Stevenson, providing gender diversity and a moderate more likely to help peel off Democrats on Election Day. Five Republicans are vying for the top of the ticket.

Primary voters don’t tend to vote strategically, however. They vote for who best represents their views, making Markley the likely winner in the closed primary.

For Democrats it is the lieutenant governor challenger, 31-year-old Eva Bermudez Zimmerman, who could provide more ticket diversity — in this case ethnic diversity — and galvanize a portion of the party’s base. But if she wins the primary she could, like Markley, become a target, in her case for those who want to paint the Democrats as too liberal and protective of state unions.

Zimmerman has arguably brought more energy to the campaign than the man likely to be at the top of the ticket, businessman Ned Lamont, who should easily defeat the underfunded and ex-con Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim.

Zimmerman has the endorsement of One Revolution, an organization formed by former advisers to the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. Zimmerman is a union organizer for the Service Employees International Union. The Democrat-controlled General Assembly named her Latina Citizen of the Year for her activism navigating 7,000 Connecticut residents to health insurance through the Access Health marketplace.

Is the safer choice Susan Bysiewicz, the former secretary of the state and the convention’s pick? Yes and no.

Though Bysiewicz, who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016, lines up with her primary challenger on many issues — such as a $15 minimum wage — she could probably help Lamont tack back to the middle in the general election. Zimmerman’s not a middle candidate. On the other hand, in an election where turnout will be a huge factor, Zimmerman could bring out minority and young voters.

Lieutenant governor should be more than an afterthought when primary voters make their decisions.

Paul Choiniere is the editorial page editor.



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