For once, how about an election on substance?

And they’re off.

The Republican and Democratic state parties have concluded their conventions and the campaigns now move into the primary stage, headed for a general election that should see vast differences in both policy and priorities.

As is often the case, however, the focus is already moving to strategies and not solutions. Democrats want to link state Republicans with President Trump and the Republican Congress.

Expect Republicans, meanwhile, to act as if the unpopular Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is running for a third term and that simply changing leadership from D to an R will fix the state's problems.

In the coming months on these editorial pages we will be demanding real answers — to how the candidates would go about restoring fiscal stability and strong economic growth, lifting the working poor into the middle class, and assuring every child has access to a quality education. Voters should make the same demand.

With the first-ballot nomination victory of Ned Lamont as the gubernatorial candidate, Democrats showed both a desire to unify and to move to the left of Malloy on labor issues. Powering Lamont’s accession to the top of the ticket was the backing he received from the state AFL-CIO at its April convention.

In his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention in Hartford this past weekend, Lamont promised that he was “not going to balance the budget on the backs … of state employees.” He pledged to support a progressive agenda of requiring a $15 minimum wage and mandated paid family and medical leave. He called for increased investment in community colleges and education generally.

Also at the convention, Sen. Chris Murphy, who is expected to easily win re-election and has emerged as the de facto party leader, made it clear how he feels Connecticut Democrats should frame the debate.

“This isn’t your father’s Republican Party any more here in Connecticut. This is the party of Trump. This is the party of the Tea Party,” Murphy said.

The strategy is clear; fire up the base and try to win the election by boosting turnout, particularly among minority and young voters, making distaste for Trump and the national Republican Party the focus.

The problem for Democrats is if the strategy proves successful, they then must govern. According to the Office of Fiscal Analysis, Connecticut confronts a $2 billion deficit in the 2019-20 fiscal year, which rises to $2.6 billion in 2020-21. Aside from a massive tax increase, there appears no avenue to close that gap without demanding more concessions from labor, an option Lamont has taken off the table, and a departure from Malloy who repeatedly demanded labor givebacks and cut state employee ranks.

Republicans, meanwhile, could face a gubernatorial primary with as many as six candidates. That raises the possibility of a Republican winning the gubernatorial nomination with less than 40 percent of the vote and a weak foundation moving into the general election.

It also means the conservative base could play a role in selecting candidates for governor and lieutenant governor who play right into the Democratic strategy of linking the state party to Trump and the GOP congressional agenda.

For its part, the Republican convention opted on the third ballot for Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, a fiscally conservative but moderate candidate in the tradition of the Connecticut GOP. Boughton’s past support for gun control, however, could hurt him in the multi-candidate primary. Republicans would be foolish to toss out a potentially strong candidate on an issue, gun control, that is settled in this state.

Boughton faces a stiff primary challenge from former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, who has taken a hard line on ratcheting back the bargaining power of the state labor unions, citing the success of Scott Walker in doing so in Wisconsin.

Both men need to better explain how their political philosophies will translate into real governing.

Also qualifying for the GOP gubernatorial primary was businessman Steve Obsitnik, whose politics is even less clear. As many as three other candidates may petition to enter the primary.

Rather than candidates retreating to their traditional ideological corners and tired rhetoric — Democrats just want to tax and spend; Republicans don't care about working people — how about breaking out some bold ideas? Let us hear some discussion and debate about restructuring how government is organized in the state; overhauling tax policy; providing a fair and consistent approach to funding education; finding ways to revive our cities.

Please, not another election of polls, positioning and empty prolixity.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Pat Richardson, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, retired Day editor Lisa McGinley, Managing Editor Tim Cotter and Staff Writer Julia Bergman. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.


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