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    Sunday, December 04, 2022

    Stefanowski comes to New London, meets American-Italian Association

    Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski speaks during a meet-and-greet hosted by the New London Italian American Association at the Renshaw Plumbing, Heating & Cooling on Tuesday, July 26, 2022, in New London. (Daniel Passapera/Special to The Day)
    Local politicians, residents and members of the New London Italian American Association cheer as Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski arrives for a meet-and-greet Tuesday, July 26, 2022, at the Renshaw Plumbing, Heating & Cooling parking lot in New London. (Daniel Passapera/Special to The Day)
    Local politicians, residents and members of the New London Italian American Association wait for the arrival of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski on Tuesday, July 26, 2022, at the Renshaw Plumbing, Heating & Cooling parking lot in New London. (Daniel Passapera/Special to The Day)
    A reflection of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski appears on a window at the Renshaw Plumbing, Heating & Cooling parking lot as he addresses a crowd during a meet-and-greet Tuesday, July 26, 2022, in New London. (Daniel Passapera/Special to The Day)

    New London — Frank Sinatra poured out from speakers as more than 50 people, many of whom were Italian, waited for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski to address them Tuesday afternoon.

    Stefanowski traveled to New London for a meet-and-greet with the New London American-Italian Association. Aside from regular members of the group, who meet almost daily and “solve the problems of the world today” according to Steve Montanari, the vice chairman of the association, there were also Republicans from Montville, Norwich and Waterford, among other towns.

    “It started off with two or three guys meeting every morning for breakfast at Muddy Waters or somewhere else. Then it exploded — we’ve got about 25 members right now,” Montanari said of the association. “We used to meet at Fort Trumbull in the parking lot. But now we’re at Renshaw’s, and we’re so grateful we’ve been given this building to use. We have a kitchen here, we cook sauce and everything else, and that’s how we got started.”

    Tuesday’s event took place in the parking lot of Renshaw Plumbing, Heating & Cooling on Shaw Street. Cars spilled out onto Willetts Avenue, as the company parking lot filled up quickly. Stefanowski arrived 40 minutes late and apologized, but the crowd, which was gathered in a makeshift collection of chairs, benches and a church pew for the informal affair, didn’t much care — they cheered the Republican candidate’s arrival.

    Stefanowski began his remarks by saying a recent attack ad against him is proof of how well Connecticut Republicans are poised to do in the November election: “If you’re ignored, that means nobody cares. I really, really, really feel like this is the year for Republicans.”

    He ran through his platform, focusing his comments on small business, inflation, law enforcement and education. He argued, to the delight of those in attendance, that the state makes it too cumbersome to open small businesses, and that it taxes businesses to too great a degree.

    Inflation has become a major campaign issue for Republicans. Stefanowski pushed back on Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s assertion that he and the state have little to do with the national and global factors driving inflation.

    “It starts at the top. President (Joe) Biden is the gift that keeps giving ... The out of control government spending, the impact that has on the economy in terms of inflation,” Stefanowski said Tuesday. “Governor Lamont said he has nothing to do with inflation ... but I believe he was one of the first governors to endorse President Biden when he was candidate Biden in the primary. He’s supported every one of these stimulus packages that the president has put out, which has caused a lot of this inflation.”

    Stefanowski faced criticism during his 2018 campaign for governor that the state should eliminate its income tax, and has since eased up on the position and mostly left it out of his 2022 campaign. But on Tuesday, he returned to it, in the context of his June meeting with New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.

    “Anyone want to guess what the income tax rate is in New Hampshire? Zero. Anybody want to guess what the state sales tax is in New Hampshire? It’s zero,” Stefanowski said. “So people say it can’t be done, New Hampshire is the perfect example of how it can be done.”

    After telling those gathered that Connecticut should support law enforcement in general, Stefanowski told The Day he believes the state should reinstitute qualified immunity for police. Qualified immunity, which partially protects police officers from being sued, was eliminated by the police accountability law passed in 2020 in response to the murder of George Floyd by Minnesota police. The law makes it so officers can be held liable if they’ve knowingly violated a person’s rights.

    On education, Stefanowski said, “We’re going to let parents raise their kids without government getting in the way” and the state needs to invest in technical schools.

    Stefanowski took questions from the audience. One person asked how the Madison businessman is going to convince cities to vote Republican. Stefanowski said he and his wife have made repeated trips to places like Bridgeport and Waterbury and expects more votes in those towns than he received in 2018. He described his views on why cities such as New London are solidly Democrat.

    “Democrats want to create this sense of dependency (through government programs). They want people to be dependent on them because they’re dependent on them for their vote. My plan is create a sense of independence,” he said. “Provide jobs. Provide training. Provide the ability for people to support themselves so they’re not dependent on the government to survive.”

    “It’s going to stop when we’re governor because we’re going to provide people with the tools they need to be independent,” he continued. “For those that don’t, we’ll certainly continue to support them. It’s not about leaving people behind, but we got to make more people independent and less reliant on the government while supporting those who need it.”

    Stefanowski said he has been to New London “a few times” for the 2022 campaign. “It’s a great town. It’s got all the elements. It should be a really thriving city. You’re on the water, you’ve got the train coming right through, you’ve got great people, a lot of spirit, I love this part of the state,” he said.

    He said the biggest issues he’s heard New London residents are concerned about is affordability and public safety. “People don’t feel safe anymore,” he said.

    He criticized the rollout of the child tax credit, supported by Lamont’s administration. Connecticut families can apply for the tax credit — worth $250 per child — until the end of July.

    “He went about it the wrong way ... He has all the data, he knows what people make, he knows how many dependents they have, he knows their address,” Stefanowski said of Lamont. “Why wouldn’t we just be giving those credits to people who qualify for it?”

    Conservative radio show host Lee Elci had a lot to do with Stefanowski coming to New London and meeting with the association.

    “I would say that most of the people here I’ve known forever. I connected the Italian folks with the people who can get directly to Bob — I’d be the conduit between the two of them,” Elci said Tuesday. “I think Bob does try to go out to as many different places as possible. There’s only like 50 people here: To drive all the way in the middle of the day to come here and talk to these guys for a few minutes, I do think it shows he wants to reach out.”

    s.spinella@theday.com

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