Wednesday evening, Connecticut will witness its fourth gubernatorial debate as Democratic nominee Ned Lamont and Republican nominee Bob Stefanowski face each off again, this time at the University of Connecticut.
Besides the change of scenery, this meeting will be different for another reason: For the first time, the pair will be joined by petitioning candidate Oz Griebel.
Griebel actually did participate in one debate with Lamont weeks ago at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford -- a debate that Stefanowski chose to skip. The UConn event will be the first time that all three are on stage together.
Reflecting on his debate with Lamont during his recent appearance on PRIMO NUTMEG, Griebel was thankful for the opportunity to get his message out.
“It gave us a great opportunity to just talk about who we are, what the Griebel/Frank ticket is about,” Griebel said. “Sometimes we get into this win/lose thing about debates. For me, the opportunity just to be able to respond to questions, so that people know how you think is the real priority.”
At the same time, however, Griebel was surprised that there had not been more questions from the debate moderators specifically on the issue of unfunded state pensions.
“We’re kind of pitting generations against each other, retirees against three-year-olds,” Griebel said. “One of the things we have to do is see how can we get some appropriate adjustments in existing contracts for current employees. How do we potentially make some adjustments even in things like COLA increases and the like for current retirees, in exchange for which will sure up the retirement fund.”
Despite being allowed to participate in the debate with Lamont, Griebel was barred from taking part in subsequent debates in New London and New Haven. As part of the rules for those debates, a candidate had to be polling at 10% in a “reputable poll.” Griebel objected to that methodology, however.
“We received four percent [in the August Quinnipiac poll], which I thought was a pretty good number considering the fact that we hadn’t spent any money,” Griebel said. “You had all the focus on all the candidates in both the Democratic and Republican primaries advertising. So I thought four percent was pretty good.”
Griebel, a former banker and lawyer, had first foray into gubernatorial politics in 2010 when he unsuccessfully ran for the Republican Party nomination. He ended up finishing third-place in that year’s GOP primary behind Tom Foley and Michael Fedele, respectively.
Despite the challenges that he faces running as a petitioning candidate, the former Republican Griebel still says that he and his running-mate, former Democrat Monte Frank, made the right choice in running on an independent ticket.
“We believe that only an independent governor can bring both parties together, particularly the members of those parties who are part of what we refer to as the ‘radical middle,’ which is where, I think, most voters in Connecticut live,” Griebel said.
Similarly, Griebel rejects the notion that he may end up being a “spoiler” in helping tip the election for either Lamont or Stefanowski. Instead he says that both the Republican and Democratic parties have served as “spoilers” in terms of wreaking havoc on Connecticut’s economy.
“This is a democracy,” Griebel said. “We’re putting ideas forward not to spoil it for Ned or Bob, but to give the voters of Connecticut a legitimate, solid, credible choice to change Connecticut and move it in the right direction, back to preeminence.”
In addition to distinguishing himself from the major party candidates, Lamont and Stefanowski, Griebel is also facing two minor-party challengers in the race as well—Rod Hanscomb, who is the first Libertarian Party gubernatorial candidate to make it on the Connecticut ballot in 20 years, and Mark Stewart Greenstein of the Americans for Minimal Government (AMiGo) Constitution Party.
“I never understand what ‘small government’ means other than you want to reduce the amount of tax dollars that are in there,” Griebel said. “I think the role of government is critical in a whole series of ways. Certainly in both assessing and using the tax dollars for our transportation system. That’s something that only a government can do, particularly when you’re looking at a statewide series of roads, the rail service that we want, the bus service that we want, the frequency of that service, the dependability of that service. That is going to be done by government.”
Likewise, Griebel also said that government plays an important role in security and providing a social safety net. However, he is also open to private delivery of government services.
“We are all for looking hard at every service that government provides to see whether that service can be delivered better—paid for by us as taxpayers, but be delivered better—by private agencies,” Griebel said. “Prioritizing what we want government to do is an absolute component and requirement of gubernatorial leadership.”