SOUTHINGTON - In the final days before Tuesdayâ€™s primary election, six gubernatorial candidates visited the Aqua Turf on Thursday to talk business with potential voters.
A bipartisan slew of candidates attended Thursdayâ€™s forum, which was hosted by the Bristol based Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce. Republicans Mark Boughton, Steve Obsitnik, David Stemerman and Bob Stephanowski; Democrat Joe Ganim. and Independent Oz Griebel all participated.
For a little more than an hour, candidates fielded business-related questions from moderator Paul Lavoie, general manager of Carey Manufacturing.
Right to Work
A â€śRight to Workâ€ť law guarantees that no person can be compelled, as a condition of employment, to join or pay dues to a labor union. Ganim, Griebel and Obsitnik were asked their position on â€śRight to Work.â€ť
â€śNo, I donâ€™t support that. I do support the concept of having relationships between management and labor and labor unions and the fights that theyâ€™ve had to rid us of some unsafe conditions that were prevalent before unions were around,â€ť Ganim said.
Griebel said he hasnâ€™t given much thought to the issue but that his instinct is heâ€™s in favor of â€śRight to Workâ€ť laws.
Obsitnik said â€śRight to Workâ€ť is a key right the people of Connecticut should have. â€śUnions had a role in a time in our history to protect people, and I get that. But whatâ€™s happening in this state is weâ€™ve gone so far to the left with career politicians and union bosses making promises that have taken this state down a road of ruin,â€ť Obsitnik said.
Health-care costs for both employees and employers are rising. Candidates were asked for proposals theyâ€™d make to soften the blow of rising health-care costs. Candidates said utilizing the private sector is the best way to lower health-care costs for residents and businesses.
â€śWe spend about $3 billion a year on Medicaid in this state. We have to address that because that drives the cost of health care in the state of Connecticut,â€ť Obsitnik said. â€śWhat we have to drive is competition - getting people from the Medicaid world into the private sector. Thatâ€™s what drives job growth.â€ť
Stemerman had three goals for health care in the state: access, quality and affordability. He said it was not the governmentâ€™s place to manage health care, and health care can even be an area of economic development in the state.
â€śI believe that what the government should be doing is creating a partnership with businesses to improve quality, which will then reduce costs,â€ť Stemerman said.
Stefanowski said health-care reform starts with reducing the cost of health care in general.
â€śOur entitlements in this state are out of control,â€ť Stefanowski said. â€śWeâ€™ve got to get the private sector more involved â€¦ get the government out of the way.â€ť
Ability to work with other legislators
Whoever is elected governor will have to work with the General Assembly and other legislators in passing legislation. The candidates were asked how they think theyâ€™d fare in collaborating with their peers at the Capitol.
â€śIâ€™ve been there, done that, and have been doing it with results,â€ť Ganim said, referring to his experience as Bridgeportâ€™s mayor.
Griebel said heâ€™d start with a â€śbone deepâ€ť respect for his peers. Everyone needs to be involved in discussions, Griebel emphasized.
â€śIf youâ€™re going to move something forward, you need all the right people at the table and you need to have thick enough skin to have your own ideas criticized,â€ť Griebel said.
Boughton, mayor of Danbury, said his experience as a state representative gives him an increased understanding of what it takes to work with the General Assembly. But, referring to Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, Boughton said sometimes itâ€™s hard.
When you have a Speaker of the House who is a union organizer, things are never going to go well when that legislature is in session,â€ť Boughton said. â€śThe anti-business ideas come out again and again and again.â€ť
Republican Tim Herbst and Democrat Ned Lamont were absent from the forum, with Herbst showing up after it concluded to speak with the crowd. Ganim, who has had contentious back-and-forth dialogue with Lamont in their past few appearances together, used the opportunity to call out his Democratic opponent for not attending. In a debate hosted by WFSB-TV3 earlier this week, Lamont said he would â€śprobably notâ€ť support Ganim in the general election if Ganim defeated him in the primary.
â€śI donâ€™t know what the reason is, or what the reason was (for not attending) â€¦ I think we should call him up and find out why heâ€™s not here. This is important,â€ť Ganim told the crowd at the Aqua Turf before pulling out his phone and making a call.
Whoever he called, no one picked up.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.