The three Republicans looking to secure their party’s nomination for lieutenant governor found themselves drawing few policy distinctions among them during NBC Connecticut’s Decision 2018 Debate, and instead attempted to make clear to voters who could actually win in November.
For most of the debate, endorsed Republican Joe Markley, Erin Stewart, and Jayme Stevenson answered questions directed at them.
They found common ground that corporate incentives like tax breaks need to be used carefully. Markley, a sitting state senator, said the practice has no place in state government. They also all agreed that the lieutenant governor should have no role when it comes to overseeing Access Health Connecticut, the state’s health insurance marketplace. Current Democratic Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman chairs the board that oversees the exchange.
New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart says she would like to see the office evolve into one that oversees and assists struggling municipalities through the Municipal Accountability and Review Board. Stevenson, the current first selectman of Darien, said she the office of lieutenant governor could be used as a place to address the growing opioid epidemic, and Markley said he would want to see the next officer take a more hands o role when it comes to small business.
The debate was just about attack free until Stevenson made her closing statement.
She said of Markley, who has identified as a Tea Party Conservative, "Senator Markley however has a voting record with some very difficult votes that are going to be very difficult and likely risk the Republicans being able to win in November."
Stevenson did not hold back on Stewart either, who she has attacked for being too liberal on the campaign trail.
"While we heard a lot of good things tonight about her experience, the data says something different,” Stevenson said. “Even the Democrats in New Britain have called her taxing and spending unsustainable and she's likely not to challenge collective bargaining rules."
Stewart said earlier in the debate that because of her position, and her moderate stances on other social issues like abortion, she is the only candidate who can elevate the GOP ticket in the fall.
“I think I'm the only one up here that can say from experience that I have won and won consistently in areas that I am not supposed to win, that's a fact. In the City of New Britain, Democrats outnumber Republicans seven to every one," Stewart said.
Markley is considered by many party insiders to have perhaps the most winnable path on primary day because he has a built in base of devoted supporters. Markley, who is unabashedly pro-life, said he in unafraid to make decisions based on principle.
When asked specifically his lone dissenting vote against a bill that made “Yes Means Yes,” the standard for consent on college campuses, Markley said that vote is an indication as to how he would handle the job of lieutenant governor.
"I think there was good reason to. When you read the bill, you often find out there is something wrong with it and I'm not scared of standing if it comes down to it."
The Democratic debate between Susan Bysiewicz and Eva Bermudez Zimmerman is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 2.