Aided by radio hosts, Republicans attempted Monday to gauge the political merit of residual resentment against Governor Ned Lamont over COVID-19 restrictions which largely disappeared in May as infections plummeted.
A midday rally outside the State Capitol to protest a proposed two-month extension of emergency powers drew an estimated 250 crowd and an appearance from Bob Stefanowski, the Republican who lost to Lamont in 2018 and seeks revenge in 2022.
“They are trying to control, Democrats, every moment of our life,” Stefanowski said. “They want to check if our children are wearing masks. They want to control whether we go to our place of worship. They want to check if you can go out and have a beer at night.
The challenge for Republicans is to find a way to excite voters during a two-month extension that Lamont, who typically gets high marks for her handling of the pandemic, and Democratic legislative leaders say she is largely cautious and comes after Lamont ended nearly all of the COVID restrictions criticized by Stefanowski.
Exceptions include a requirement that unvaccinated people wear masks indoors in public places and special conditions that landlords must meet before evicting a tenant for non-payment of rent, the latter being a vestige of ‘a moratorium on evictions that ended on July 1.
The administration has not yet indicated whether unvaccinated children will need to wear masks at school, according to the recommendation made last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No vaccine is currently approved for people under the age of 12.
“Unmask our children” was the most popular message posted on Monday.
Representative Lezlye Zupkus, R-Prospect, told the crowd that wearing a mask gave her daughter chronic headaches, and she told her local school principal the child would not wear mask this fall.
“It’s not fair that these kids have headaches,” Zupkus said. “They should learn instead of wearing these masks. “
The General Assembly, which this year passed a temporary law strengthening legislative control over emergency executive powers, is due to vote on the two-month extension on Wednesday. With strong Democratic majorities in both chambers, passage is almost assured.
Minority Parliamentary Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, and Senator Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, the Deputy Minority Leader in the Senate said Lamont has been judicious in his exercise of emergency powers, but that does not justify a continued delegation of legislative authority.
“The general delegation of broad executive powers, I think, is a danger to our democracy,” Candelora said. “I think it’s going way too far. And our governor may have been wise in the past with this, but the facts just don’t support a delegation of power. “
Likewise, Formica said its opposition was about the principle of continuing to delegate authority to the governor, not a desire to overturn executive decrees still in effect.
“I have no objection to what’s in place, as much as to extending what appears to be facing an emergency that is diminishing or has diminished somewhat,” Formica said.
Neither Candelora nor Formica were among the 10 Republican lawmakers who spoke at the rally. In an interview, Candelora was more critical of the Democratic legislative majority than the governor, saying lawmakers were happy to defer tough decisions to Lamont.
“If I am a Democrat in the legislature, I would be more than happy to delegate that authority and let the governor make the controversial decision of whether or not children wear masks in school,” Candelora said. “This is a legislative opportunity to hand over all decision-making to this governor, who has managed to gain a high approval rating.”
One of the rally’s organizers was Patrick Sasser, one of the leaders of the successful movements that defeated Lamont’s push for road tolls to fund overdue repairs and infrastructure improvements, an issue that gave Lamont one of the lowest approval ratings in 2019.
It bounced back during the pandemic.
In an April poll by the University of the Sacred Heart, nearly three-quarters of voters said they rated their quality of life as good or excellent, and 69% approved Lamont’s handling of the pandemic.
House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said the extension of emergency powers was intended to allow the governor to respond quickly to changes, including the possible availability of an approved vaccine for children under age 12, and regardless of the CDC’s recommendations for mask wear. the coming school year.
Ritter said Republicans are looking to create controversy where there isn’t, at least not among the general public.
“The overwhelming majority of Connecticut residents right now are really, really happy that Connecticut isn’t Missouri, that Connecticut is a state that has done a tremendous job of following science,” Ritter said. “And that involves the wearing of masks and mutual respect, and high, high vaccination rates – the third highest in the country. “
“What executive order are we in right now that is so disturbing to people? Ritter said. “I haven’t heard of it.”
Ritter said Monday’s rally was about Republican politics.
“I understand that Bob [Stefanowski] is definitely trying to win a primary for the governor. And I know he has to appeal to a very right-wing base and Trump supporters. So that’s what it was today. It was a political rally that is not based on what most people in Connecticut think. And it will backfire on them.
In his remarks to the rally and then to reporters, Stefanowski turned to a broader criticism of the governor and Democratic lawmakers, criticizing them for refusing to hold a special session on a sharp rise in auto theft and violence, a trend observed across the United States. States.
“The real emergency in our state right now is public safety,” Stefanowski told the crowd. “We have children affected by stray bullets. We have more murders in the city of Hartford this year than all last year. Do you know what he’s doing about it? Nothing.”
Stefanowski also reminded reporters of a campaign promise Lamont made in 2018.
“He said he was going to reduce the property tax by $ 300 million. He didn’t, ”he said. “People are ready for change.
Stefanowski declined when asked if he would try to be this change. He was still exploring, he said.
“I’m still touring the state. I get a lot of positive comments from the people I meet, ”he said,“ They are not happy with the governor. If the governor had done what he said he was going to do, maybe not. But people are ready for a change.
In the most recent Sacré-Coeur poll, Lamont had an overall approval rating of 55.7%. About 26.6% disapproved.