Lamont went where many Democrats dare not go
I've been a talk radio host in this market for 14 years. My daily broadcast covers the entire state, most of Rhode Island and everything east of Oyster Bay Long Island. Recently I added a national audience with a regular slot on the USA Radio Network that puts my voice in dozens of markets across the country. Despite all this airtime opportunity, with thousands of ears listening, few sitting Democratic legislators have ventured into my studio.
And I get it. Presumably, there’s little to be gained, politically, by any of them coming on the radio in hostile listener territory. This probably explains why I’ve never had the pleasure of a face to face dialog with either of our sitting United States senators despite repeated on-air radio invitations. For the past decade-plus, the top-of-the-ticket Democrats have consistently avoided direct contact with my listeners, although I did experience a brief exchange at a charity event with recent Gov. Dannel Malloy who offered up a reluctant hand shake featuring the grip strength of an infant.
Not since Republican M. Jodi Rell's regular Friday segments on my radio show has a sitting Connecticut governor agreed to venture off script and join me in studio for a one-on-one conversation. I assume it must be a partisan issue since my radio landscape is an overflowing cornucopia of Connecticut’s best Republican legislators. However, the once-routine appearances by Congressman Joe Courtney – or for that matter any other state Democrat — have recently vanished into the mist like NFL scouts after a Colin Kaepernick workout.
However, last Friday, without a hint of trepidation or even a request from his handlers to control the narrative, Gov. Ned Lamont agreed to answer my questions.
Keep in mind, I’ve spent the last 11 months criticizing just about every move this governor and his administration have made. I’ve called him Connecticut's version of Mister Rogers; I asked if future incoming governors might consider taking classes to avoid the obvious mistakes Lamont has encountered; I said his handling of the casinos and sports betting was an embarrassment; I’ve mocked his poll numbers; I, along with the 3 million state residents, made fun of his dancing; I hate his paid-family-leave plan; and I'm on record saying I’m not all that thrilled with the minimum-wage increase he drove through the legislature.
There was/is the kerfuffle about taxing plastic bags; more taxes; confusion regarding wages in bars and restaurants; and the general sense of confusion coming from this administration.
The governor and I talked for almost 25 minutes and covered everything from “user fees” to the rainy-day fund. A few things became clear to me.
1. Ned has a reputation as a "good guy" and I think that's an accurate assessment, but he needs to realize there are dangerous, impregnable bureaucratic institutions that dominate Connecticut’s political landscape and that being the “nice guy” doesn't always prove profitable. The party’s entrenched leaders relentlessly pursue a liberal agenda and any blind allegiance to the Democrats will prove to be the governor’s destruction. Lamont must already consider himself betrayed by his allies’ refusal to vote in favor of his ever-changing toll package – opposition purely driven by self-preservation.
2. The governor genuinely seems willing to listen to any and all ideas. In our conversation he went out of his way to praise Senator Len Fasano for creating an alternate plan for funding transportation needs. In the end, I don't believe the governor was all that enthralled with Fasano’s alternative of raiding the rainy day fund, but appreciated the exchange of ideas.
3. I offered him my plan of selling state-owned property to fund highway projects; he said he thought it was a good idea to sell some state-owned land but countered that it would fall woefully short of funding multiple transportation projects.
4. He denied sweeping the transportation fund (essentially moving money around) and guaranteed to me he would not toll cars with the latest roll out of the "trucks-only" plan. This administration would benefit from a better command of all topic information. Vague or incomplete answers at this point are unacceptable.
5. When we chatted about taxes and the state’s citizens hemorrhaging money, I asked about cutting programs that were not deemed life essential. The governor didn't seem willing to cut any programs, but said he wanted to run a leaner government.
During Lamont's airtime he proved himself humble, well-intentioned, and self-deprecating when we briefly joked about his dancing prowess. By sitting down, he showed guts and character and I look forward to our next conversation. Thank you, Mr. Governor.
Lee Elci is the morning host for 94.9 News Now radio, a station that provides "Stimulating Talk" with a conservative bent.
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