UNCASVILLE — In their second and final debate, Gov. Ned Lamont, Republican challenger Bob Stefanowski and longtime Independent Party candidate Rob Hotaling sparred Tuesday night over police accountability, an alleged increase in crime and diminished respect for law enforcement.
Lagging in the double-digit polls, it could have been a night of fortune for Stefanowski, a business consultant and former business executive who lost to Lamont by more than 44,000 votes in 2018. Focusing first on the projected $6 billion over two-year state budget surplus, including $4 billion in the fiscal year that ended June 30, Stefanowski continued to proclaim that Lamont should have done more to provide tax relief beyond the $640 million approved in the budget that took effect July 1.
Lamont countered that investing more of the surplus in underfunded state pension plans for Connecticut state employees and public school teachers is the best thing financially for taxpayers who will save $430 million. dollars per year over the next decade, after state governors spent nearly 30 years. surpluses, increased taxes and neglected growing pension liabilities.
But debate fireworks erupted in front of 400 people in a ballroom at the Mohegan Sun Casino when Stefanowski tried to link last month’s killings of two cops in Bristol to the police accountability bill. of 2020, which included tougher penalties for rogue cops and ended warrantless searches.
“This governor has decimated law enforcement across the state,” Stefanowski said during the hour-long debate co-sponsored by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and broadcast live on WTNH News 8. “The Fraternal Order of the police has said it and every I’ officer I’ve spoken to, your police accountability bill has created a sense of leniency and corruption in the state of Connecticut and you must be part of it held accountable.”
After the debate, Stefanowski told reporters that he misspoke when using the word “corruption.” He has vowed to repeal the Police Accountability Act if he wins the governorship.
Hotaling pointed to a recent pro-Stefanowski letter attacking Hotaling, accusing him of supporting defunding the police, a common Republican talking point nationally this campaign season. “He needs to fix the record,” said Hotaling, who as a Liberian-born black man, first on stage and then after the debate with remarks to reporters, recalled an incident in which he was profiled by Bridgeport Police. He described being threatened by a police officer who had his gun holstered and yelled at Hotaling during mistaken identity while the Cheshire banker was living and working in Bridgeport.
“If you’ve had an experience like this, it makes you think differently, and yet I still support the police 100% to get the tools they need to succeed,” Hotaling said. “But I also know that our communities have been disproportionately targeted and this bill addresses some of that. Is this the type of society you want to live in? I love the police, I support the police, but they have to have the right level of responsibility”.
Lamont focused on getting Stefanowski’s A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association during the 2018 cycle. “He won’t touch guns,” Lamont said. “We’re not serious about crime unless we’re serious about guns.” After the debate, Lamont told reporters that he would consider pushing for legislation banning military-style rifles altogether. In the 2013 Gun Safety Act enacted after the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre, when the sale and possession of military-style guns was banned along with high-capacity ammunition magazines, those who already owned them could keep them if they registered the guns.
“There’s only one person on this stage right now who will support everyone who puts their lives on the line every day,” Stefanowski said, pointing to his opponents. “These guys are both soft on crime.”
“There are a lot of cheap accusations that our bipartisan juvenile crime bill, that the police accountability bill had something to do with the tragic murders of two of our cops,” he said. said Lamont. “I just think it’s the cheapest grandstand you can imagine. If you want to do something serious, watch it was a crazy man who was drunk with an AR-style assault weapon. That’s what happened there. Get these street AR style assault weapons if you want to get serious about crime. »
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. During debate governor Lamont Stefanowski triggered fire fireworks