Lamont and Malloy, similar on policy, much different in personality
The Republican candidate for governor, Bob Stefanowski, tried desperately to link his Democratic opponent, Ned Lamont, to the current Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. Stefanowski was betting that Malloy’s low approval ratings would rub off.
In the end, disdain for President Donald Trump proved more pivotal, driving up Democratic turnout and allowing Lamont to eke out a narrow victory with just 48.4 percent.
Stefanowski wasn’t wrong. With his progressive agenda, Lamont lines up with Malloy’s policies. Lamont, like Malloy, supports taking a tolerant attitude toward residents who are in the country in defiance of immigration law. He backed the gun restrictions passed during Malloy’s tenure. And like Malloy, Lamont sees tolls as necessary to raise the funding needed to fix the state’s transportation system, an approach Stefanowski rejected.
On labor issues, Lamont appears ready to push past Malloy, supporting a $15 per hour minimum wage phase in and creating a system to provide paid family leave.
Lamont backs the Malloy administration’s “Second Chance” initiatives that are intended to give prisoners a greater chance at reform, reduce penalties for non-violent crimes and divert individuals with substance abuse issues into programs. Some of these same approaches were included in a federal crime reform bill that won bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress last week. Stefanowski did not embrace the Connecticut version, however, feeling it had swung too far in favor of criminals.
Uncertain is whether Lamont, like Malloy, will turn to higher taxes to close projected deficits. On the campaign trail, Lamont pointed to a need for “structural changes,” rather than higher taxes, but he remains short on specifics.
So, yes, the policy similarities are strong, not surprising given both are Democrats.
Personality wise, however, Lamont is no Malloy clone. In fact, they couldn’t be more different.
Prior to his runs for governor, Malloy was mayor of Stamford, a strong mayor form of governance. He learned to get things done his way, not as easy when you’re governor. As governor, Malloy was often dismissive of those who didn’t see things how he did, concluding they were mistaken in their positions or unwilling to make the hard choices necessary.
Malloy was more likely to degrade or verbally beat into submission lawmakers who he saw as getting in the way of his agenda, rather than try to persuade them. In passing the last budget of his time in office, Republicans and Democrats effectively cut Malloy out of the discussions.
The concern about Malloy was often how much his tendency to alienate others would get in the way of getting things done.
Lamont, conversely, is earnest in his perception that everyone can and will pull together for the good of the state. In our editorial board interview, Lamont said state legislators share a common desire to do public service. So why wouldn’t they work with him?
This has left many political observers wondering if Lamont is ready for the rough and tumble of Hartford politics. Public service is nice, but special interests set the agenda and yield nothing without a fight.
In last week’s column I noted that Rep. Melissa Ziobron, after her loss in running for state Senate, had accepted a job as budget director for Senate Republicans. After serving six years in the House, I wrote that Ziobron had four more years of state service to qualify for a pension. Actually, as a Tier 3 employee, she needs nine more years of work to reach the 15-year threshold.
Also, the Office of Early Childhood has a $283 million budget. I had the number wrong.
Paul Choiniere is the editorial page editor.
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