September 7, 2018

Analyst: Griebel's unaffiliated run could sway Nov. election

Matt Pilon
Matt Pilon
A panel discussion at CBIA's event Friday about the November election included (from left to right): moderator Christine Stuart, editor-in-chief,; Jonathan Wharton, poltical science professor, Southern Connecticut State University; Gary Rose, political science professor, Sacred Heart University; and Rich Hanley, journalism professor, Quinnipiac University.

Oz Griebel, the unaffiliated candidate running for governor, could tip the outcome of November's gubernatorial election in favor of Democrat Ned Lamont, according to one political analyst.

Gary L. Rose, a professor at Sacred Heart University, spoke on a Connecticut Business & Industry Association panel discussion Friday morning about the election, which will decide Connecticut's first new governor in eight years, as well as every legislative seat in the General Assembly.

Rose, who according to state voter records is a registered Republican, said Griebel may pull more votes that would have otherwise gone to Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski, though he noted that the state's large pool of unaffiliated voters tends to split down party lines come election time, with maybe 10 to 15 percent of them truly fluid.

Griebel led Greater Hartford's business chamber, the MetroHartford Alliance for 17 years, and has been a regular presence at CBIA events, though he was not in attendance Friday.

Griebel and his lieutenant governor running mate, Monte Frank, have pushed back against the "spoiler" narrative in interviews, and said that they think they can gain additional visibility and support with voters. A recent Quinnipiac Poll, which came out before Griebel officially made it on the November ballot, found 4 percent of voters said they would vote for the unaffiliated candidate.

On Thursday, CBIA published a survey that found businesses in the state are pessimistic about Connecticut's economic future and are paying close attention to the upcoming election, particularly the governor's race.

The survey, which polled 303 businesses in the state, found the issues companies care most about are controlling government spending, reforming the state employee retirement system and Connecticut's economic and business climate.

Friday's panel discussion, moderated by CTNewsJunkie Editor-in-Chief Christine Stuart, included Rich Hanley, a journalism associate professor at Quinnipiac University, and Jonathan Wharton, a political science assistant professor at Southern Connecticut State University and recent former chairman of the New Haven Republican Town Committee.

The panel also discussed Stefanowski's decision to skip this week's debate at the University of St. Joseph, leaving Lamont and Griebel as the only candidates on stage.

"I don't get the reluctance," Rose said. "He's actually good on stage."

Wharton, who said he has attended some Republican party meetings with Stefanowski, chalked up the absence to a scheduling conflict. Stefanowski has agreed to a number of future debates.

"It's no secret they are being very strategic about which ones they possibly want to go to," Wharton said.

An audience member asked the panel if perhaps Stefanowski was being strategic in his debate schedule.

Hanley said Stefanowski -- who trailed Lamont 46-33 in the recent Quinnipiac poll but was closer in a Sacred Heart poll published the same day -- will need tactical strength, like boots on the ground, in addition to strategy, to win.

Rose said he has heard the theory that Stefanowski is letting Griebel and Lamont duke it out at first, to his advantage, but he doesn't put much stock in it.

"I would agree with that if, in fact, there were substantive differences between [Griebel and Lamont]," Rose said.

But he noted that both candidates favor highway tolls (Lamont has said he only wants to toll trucks) and oppose repealing the approximately $10 billion income tax, as Stefanowski has pledged to do.

"Really, this debate that took place at St. Joe's, there wasn't a lot of daylight between them on the issues," Rose said. "He sounded ... very pro business of course, but he sounded very much like Ned Lamont, too."

Griebel, in an interview, said he rejects claims that his campaign is similar to Lamont's.

"I totally reject that," he said. "That statement is ludicrous."

Correction: An earlier version of this story has been changed to clarify Lamont's position on highway tolls

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