Vote 2022: Candidates for governor clash over abortion, taxes in first debate
The three main candidates for governor clashed over abortion access, tax relief and crime in the first debate of the 2022 campaign season.
The debate was held at the NBC Connecticut/Telemundo studios in West Hartford.
For Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont and Republican Bob Stefanowski, it was a re-match of 2018. But this time, the fight was over who will protect abortion access.
Lamont has repeatedly inferred that Stefanowski will not protect the right to choose. Stefanowski insists he will defend Connecticut’s law allowing abortion, including a new “safe harbor” law for providers and out-of-state patients.
"You shouldn't be trying to scare the women of Connecticut that it's going to change when I win,” Stefanowski told Lamont. "You're going to hear lies for the next 60 days coming out of the Lamont campaign, and you know why? Because he doesn't want to talk about that woman struggling to make her health care payment."
Lamont shot back, noting Stefanowski’s donations to two anti-abortion candidates in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate. Stefanowski chose not to support Themis Klarides, a pro-choice candidate who briefly challenged him for the nomination for governor.
"I think you're scaring the women of Connecticut,” said Lamont. “Actions speak louder than words, Bob."
For Lamont, the issue is paying off. A new poll from CTInsider and WFSB-TV gives Lamont a 15-point lead – and a 30-point advantage with women voters. Two other recent polls gave Lamont double-digit leads too.
Stefanowski said he is undeterred.
"I don't pay attention to these polls. We've got our own polling that shows us within the margin of error,” he said after the debate. "Quinnipiac had us losing by 15 points last time. We came within 40,000 votes."
Also on stage -- Independent Party candidate Rob Hotaling, who Stefanowski tried to toss off the ballot.
"Hey, I deserve to be here,” Hotaling said following the match-up. “Unlike Bob, who's trying to -- who did his best prior to this event to not make that happen."
The candidates also clashed over taxes -- and whether to spend Connecticut's Rainy Day Fund on tax relief.
"Bob's had a couple of tax schemes on the table,” Lamont said. “The first one would have gutted about half of our budget. That would have jacked up property taxes and eviscerated education."
Hotaling partly agreed with the governor.
"I agree to a certain extent that we should pay down pension debt,” he said. “But we should use some of those funds to close the achievement gap and make strategic investments in our infrastructure."
Stefanowski doubled-down on his plan to offer deeper tax cuts with half of the state’s surplus.
"It's your money. It's not Gov. Lamont's money,” Stefanowski said. “And when I'm governor, that's how I'm going to treat it. Your money."
The next debate is on Nov. 1. The debate at WTNH-TV in New Haven is their second and final contest.