Stefanowski, Lamont contest goes to Connecticut voters

FILE - This panel of Sept. 26, 2018 file photos shows Independent candidate Oz Griebel, left, Democrat Party candidate Ned Lamont, center, and Republican Party candidate Bob Stefanowski after a gubernatorial debate at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn. The gubernatorial candidates are crisscrossing the state, appearing at rallies, diners and even on trains in advance of next week's election.  (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)
FILE - This panel of Sept. 26, 2018 file photos shows Independent candidate Oz Griebel, left, Democrat Party candidate Ned Lamont, center, and Republican Party candidate Bob Stefanowski after a gubernatorial debate at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn. The gubernatorial candidates are crisscrossing the state, appearing at rallies, diners and even on trains in advance of next week's election. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

HARTFORD — For months, each has made the case that his business experience is what's needed to fix Connecticut's fiscal ills. On Tuesday, voters have their say in the race between Democrat Ned Lamont and Republican Bob Stefanowski that's shaping up to be every bit as close as the state's last few governor races.

The vote for governor headlines midterm balloting in Connecticut that includes a re-election bid for Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, contests for the state's five U.S. House seats and other statewide and local races.

Long lines, but no major problems, were reported at polling places Tuesday morning, according to the Secretary of the State's Office. The 2.16 million registered voters in the state is the highest number in recent memory.

Stefanowski, of Madison, and Lamont, of Greenwich, lead a pack of five men vying to succeed Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat who narrowly won the state's top office in 2010 and 2014. Polling has indicated the race is a statistical tie.

Stefanowski has painted Lamont as a clone of the unpopular Malloy who would preside over tax increases. Sensing an opportunity to take back control of a statehouse, the Republican Governors Association has helped to fund campaign television advertisements attacking Lamont.

At a polling place in Hartford's West End, home to many members of the city's small Republican minority, Ken Lerman said high taxes — not President Donald Trump — was foremost on his mind as he cast his votes.

"Our taxes keep rising. We can't afford it," said Lerman, an attorney and chairman of the Hartford Republican Town Committee. "We need a change in government."

Lamont, in turn, has accused Stefanowski of proposing a reckless tax-cutting plan and being a threat to Connecticut's values, including the state's strong gun control laws and protections for women.

"We need change," Lamont says in a recent TV ad. "But we don't need to change who we are."

Protecting women's and LGBT rights were a top priority for Lelaneia Dubay, a business owner who criticized Trump while leaving a Hartford polling place.

"We have forgotten that united we stand, divided we fall," she said. "We are a melting pot and racism will destroy our country."

Dubay's husband, Tom Dubay, is an independent voter who believes Trump's tone has increased the partisan divide in the country, but he said both Republicans and Democrats also are to blame.

"They're not listening to the people at all, so the people need to stand up and take some power back," he said.

Oz Griebel, an independent candidate for governor, has tried to persuade voters to ditch both parties and back "a leadership team that's going to focus on you as the taxpayer, the resident and the employer."

The winner will face severe financial challenges for the state. Besides large, unfunded pension liabilities and major transportation infrastructure needs, the next fiscal year is projected to be more than $2 billion in deficit. A typical one-year state budget is roughly $20 billion.

Libertarian Rod Hanscomb and Mark Stewart Greenstein, co-founder of Americans for Minimal Government Party, are also on the ballot. Polls are open until 8 p.m.

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