Republican businessman Bob Stefanowski announced Wednesday he is seeking a rematch against a former political rival, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont.
The 2018 GOP gubernatorial candidate, who narrowly lost to Lamont in a three-way race that year, said he will run to be the party’s contender once again. Lamont announced in November he has filed the necessary paperwork for a second term.
“I’m running because I fundamentally believe that by working together, we can change Connecticut,” Stefanowski said in a written statement. “I’m running for Governor to make government work for the people of Connecticut, not political insiders.”
Asked on Tuesday about the prospects of Stefanowski entering the race and how he was going to juggle both his job and his bid for reelection, Lamont said he planned to focus “like a laser beam” on the pandemic, keeping students in school and the state’s economy open.
“Look, it is a political season. People are going to get into the race,” Lamont said. “I think Bob has been running for the last five years, so nothing is going to change all that much. I’m going to focus on governing.”
Stefanowski said in the statement he wants to address issues including affordability and public safety in the state.
“People in Connecticut are not asking for a lot,” he said. “They want to be safe, to trust that state government is being open and accountable, and to be able to afford to live, work and retire here.”
Stefanowski has maintained a public profile since losing to Lamont in his first bid for public office. Early in the coronavirus pandemic, Stefanowski and his wife Amy, the Republican Town Committee chair in their hometown of Madison, launched a face mask distribution operation when PPE was difficult for people to find.
More recently, Stefanowski has posted photos of himself on Twitter — still using the handle @bobforgovernor — helping the campaign of a state representative candidate, collecting donations for the Salvation Army and appearing with student groups. He has also used social media to lodge sharp criticisms at Lamont, ranging from his response to the pandemic to the Democrat’s decision not to call state lawmakers back to Hartford to address concerns around crimes by young people.
“Does anyone else find it odd that @GovNedLamont is issuing executive orders and calling out the @CTNationalGuard while families wait in lines for hours to get tested while he relaxes on the beach in Florida - the very state he maligned for their Covid outbreaks?” Stefanowski tweeted.
Former House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, who has expressed interest in challenging Lamont as well, said she has not yet made a decision about her candidacy as a Republican contender. Susan Patricelli Regan of Granby, a former global marketing executive for spirits and beer company DIAGEO, has already announced she is seeking the Republican Party’s endorsement for governor.
Stefanowski, a former GE executive and one-time head of a payday loan company, skipped the party convention process in 2018 and became the first major-party candidate in Connecticut history to win a nomination after getting onto the ballot through petitions. He ran ads promising, among other things, to eliminate the state’s income tax.
That year, former President Donald Trump endorsed Stefanowski, touting the first-time candidate on Twitter as a being tough on crime and a “big cutter of Taxes.” Lamont retweeted Trump, referring to his opponent as “Bob Trumpanowski.”
Ultimately, Lamont garnered more than 49% of the vote while Stefanowski won a little more than 46%. Independent candidate Oz Griebel, who died in July 2020 after being struck by a vehicle while he was jogging, won nearly 4% of the vote.