Eva Bermudez Zimmerman clearly arrived at NBC Connecticut with a plan to use her opponent’s experience and past as a weapon against her, knowing Susan Bysiewicz would attempt to turn it into an asset.
Just minutes into the debate. Bermudez Zimmerman criticized Bysiewicz, a former legislator and secretary of the state, for previous votes on budget she cast.
"Unfortunately, Susan, when she served in the state legislature she voted nearly every single year to defer pension payments which have brought us here right now to the fiscal crisis that we currently have.”
She even called Bysiewicz a “coward,” at one point.
Susan Bysiewicz is the endorsed Democrat running for the number two job in state government. She won the party’s support at the state convention in May, while the 31-year-old Bermudez Zimmerman was successful in achieving a position on the August primary ballot.
Bermudez Zimmerman is a union organizer who was born in Hartford and currently lives in Newtown where she served out a term on the town council after being appointed to the seat.
Bysiewicz harped on her career experience as reason Democratic voters should support her in the August primary. She said the party and the state need someone who knows how to run major state agencies alongside the governor.
“The lieutenant also has the role of stepping up if a governor can't serve and that's important to take into consideration,” Bysiewicz said. “Between 1945 and 2004 six lieutenant governors have stepped up into that important role and I'm ready on day one. I've not only worked in the legislature but I ran a very large state agency."
The two candidates differed on tax policy, with Bysiewicz not committing to raising taxes as a response to the state’s budget deficits, while Bermudez Zimmerman said the state must impose higher taxes on big box and chain stores as a way to raise revenue.
The two candidates did agree that legalizing the recreational use of marijuana is a good idea, not only for revenue purposes, but they each cited data from Colorado suggesting that opioid related deaths decreased at the same time cannabis was legalized there.
Bermudez Zimmerman has the support of labor unions around the state, and she’s picked up the support of the American Federation of Teachers in Connecticut. Bysiewicz has picked up the support more than 50 local chief elected officials.
Bermudez Zimmerman's lack of political experience did show during one point in the debate. She said her time in Washington was spent as an intern researching legislation, and not the staff member in the office of former Rep. Charles Rangel that she described herself as earlier in the campaign.
Nevertheless, she said the experience of being in Washington as the nation dealt with a financial crisis was beneficial.
“I’m proud of the work I did,” she said.
Bysiewicz leaned on her time working in private practice to help small businesses thrive in Connecticut, a point she made multiple times.
"Our economy is in need of revitalization and I've been on the front lines of that for the past six years so I think public and private sector is important to this critical role in state government."
This was the only debate between the two candidates.