Face the Facts

Face the Facts: Hot Button Issues in Race for Governor in Conn.

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If all politics is as local as Former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Tip O'Neill used to say then there is no doubt that the national issues like gas prices, the new Supreme Court decision on abortion and soaring inflation will all play into the race for governor here in Connecticut. The question is how?

NBC Connecticut's Mike Hydeck spoke with the Capitol Bureau Chief for the CT Mirror Mark Pazniokas about it.

Mike Hydeck: "So let's start with abortion. This is a blue state in Connecticut. It's been legal here for decades, and in fact, the governor just strengthened the law here. How can this actually come into play when it comes to the campaign trail soon?"

Mark Pazniokas: "It comes into play by who is energized and that it's similar to the role that Donald Trump played in Connecticut's elections in 2018. It's not that there was any reason to vote against a Republican for the General Assembly in 2018 because of Donald Trump, but it did change who showed up at the polls. There were, there was a lot of data that there were a lot of suburban women turning out at the polls. They were energized by the election of Donald Trump. And that's how the General Assembly went from being pretty much a 50/50 General Assembly to one in which there's a very strong Democratic majority. So the Democrats in Connecticut are hoping for a similar impact on abortion. You know, the thing to keep in mind is you do not need a huge swing for it to be important. Ned Lamont won by three percentage points four years ago over Mr. Stefanowski. That's only 40,000 votes or so. So even at the margins, if you get greater numbers of women and other reproductive rights voters, this is not going to be good news for Bob Stefanowski. Now, we obviously have the countervailing political current of inflation and the unpopularity of Joe Biden, which is one of the many reasons why this is a very interesting election here and elsewhere."

Mike Hydeck: "That was my next question, in fact. Inflation is caused by so many factors in the global economy, when it comes to Fed policy, supply chain issues that we're still dealing with. How can Bob Stefanowski actually challenge the governor on this? The governor says these are national issues, but Stefanowski can make a point out of that, right?"

Mark Pazniokas: "Stefanowski is making a point of that. And his message discipline is impressive indeed. On Friday, he was making the rounds, going to donut shops where he was giving away free donuts that were marked with a message about the diesel tax, which took effect on Friday, July 1. And so he is betting on the abortion issue fading a bit and that inflation will be front and center. I mean, obviously, every time somebody fills up their gas tank, it's in your face. And that is his bet. Now, it is, he has been unwilling to really engage on a whole lot of other issues. And the Supreme Court keeps causing him and other moderate Republicans' problems that way. Republicans want to talk about Joe Biden and inflation, and the Supreme Court of the United States keeps changing the subject, as we saw with abortion, as we saw with guns, and as we saw most recently with climate change. The Supreme Court decision basically stripping the EPA of much of its authority on some clean air regulations. And that can, you know that consider, it consists, you know, that could push that even more to the states than it already is. The State of Connecticut under Governor Lamont and his predecessors have made climate change and clean air a state issue. Bob Stefanowski has really shied away from talking about that because he doesn't want to talk about anything that could raise the cost of electricity or the price of gasoline even by a penny. So that's the interesting push and pull on pocketbook issues, versus the social issues and other issues that the Supreme Court has really energized, you know, political discussion all around the United States."

Mike Hydeck: "We also heard this week that Supreme Court in the very next session will start talking about a case from North Carolina, about the way districts are drawn. And it's a Republican effort to try to get it considered at the Supreme Court. Could that end up having an impact down the road saying, Look, they're already trying to maneuver elections ahead of time?"

Mark Pazniokas: "It adds to the sense, particularly among the political left, that this country is really going off the rails on a whole lot of issues. We have not seen a series of decisions from the United States Supreme Court in my lifetime. You know, it's been one shot after another, and unless you're one of the parties who are very interested in seeing, you know, long standing policy undone, this has been alarming, even disorienting. And that's a sense that the Democrats are trying to capitalize on. It's not just Governor Lamont. You see it in Senator Blumenthal's advertising. He's on the air, talking about abortion and trying to raise alarm saying that, yes, Connecticut does have a law that's been on the books for 32 years basically codifying Roe v. Wade, and protecting a woman's right to abortion. But he is raising the prospect of Mitch McConnell, if he's back as the majority leader, that he could seek a national ban on abortion. Now that could be very difficult given how closely divided the Senate is going to be even if Republicans take over, but it, is it is a message that Senator Blumenthal is using and others are using around the country."

Mike Hydeck: "It is going to be a very interesting next few months. Mark Pazniokas, co-founder of Connecticut Mirror. Nobody knows politics in Connecticut better than you. Thanks for your time and expertise today."

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