Connecticut Gubernatorial Candidates Debate Children, Family Futures At CCSU

Isabella Chan, Staff Writer

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With Election Day less than a month away, Central Connecticut invited the state’s gubernatorial candidates to express where they stand on issues regarding the future of children and families in a debate last Wednesday.

Democratic candidate Ned Lamont and unaffiliated candidate Oz Griebel participated in the forum. Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski was invited, but did not attend. The moderator, Christine Stuart of CT News Junkie, stated Stefanowski had a conflict with scheduling and couldn’t make it.

The night began with the question of whether the candidates plan to keep open the Office of Early Childhood and what their priorities would be for the office if they did. In response, both candidates presented very different answers.

Lamont was definite on keeping the office open and bringing together more early childhood groups and programs to ensure teamwork amongst education, social services and more. Griebel’s response, on the other hand, focused more on the financials of the situation.

“To say that any one thing isn’t going to be looked at hard would be an outright disservice,” Griebel stated on the current budget deficit.

“Are we doing everything we can to make sure the right people are in the room looking at how the tax dollars are spent?” Griebel went on, claiming that Connecticut couldn’t afford to have 169 town councils.

The night continued on in this fashion, with Lamont focused on wanting to give children, families and teachers benefits and programs that will promote success and Griebel prioritizing state financials and improving how towns will influence the state as a whole.

One idea Lamont focused on was daycare for single parents and low-income families.

“I’m a guy that started up a small business. I know I could not afford to lose that single parent if not for quality daycare. I need that person to continue working. I can make the case that this is a priority and it’s about growing the economy and keep everyone working,” Lamont explained.

Lamont advocated for a $15 minimum wage for teachers, paid maternity leave in the state and more training to acquire jobs.

Meanwhile, Griebel went into depth on Connecticut’s $4 million deficit and how making financial changes would be difficult, saying it would heavily impact private sector and state employment.

“You can promise anything you want, but if the money isn’t there, then you’ve got a major issue,” Griebel said.

Those in attendance at the forum were left feeling dissatisfied with some of the answers given and not given.

Two retired state employees, Lianette Gaunichaux and Mishan Holley, expressed frustration with the suggested financial plans of some of the candidates.

“Every time we come to these forums, it’s always about how state employees can give more. But we didn’t get us in the mess that we’re in now,” Gaunichaux stated.

She explained that although it was not clearly stated at Wednesday’s forum, Lamont had previously pointed some of the blame toward state employees.

“We’ve just given back and they keep attacking the pension, failing to realize we have to put money aside,” Holley said. “The state isn’t just giving us free money. We get more taken out than we work and put aside. State employees have had nothing for years.”

Additionally, the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut’s Smart Justice division was disappointed with candidates’ responses on the criminal justice system during the open question portion of the forum.

When asked if they would veto bills regarding criminal justice that would unfavorably affect people of color, neither candidate gave a straight answer, stating they would have to look more into the racial impact statements with the legislation.

“We wanted to hear a, ‘Yes, I’d veto a bill if it had a negative racial impact statement and if it will impact communities of color in a negative way,'” Melvin Medina, director of Strategic Initiatives for the ACLU, stated. “We’re at a loss just trying to understand why you wouldn’t.”

As the gubernatorial election comes to a near end, it is now up to Connecticut residents to decide who they think will be best suited for state governor. Election Day is on Tuesday, Nov. 6 this year. Those still unregistered and looking to cast a ballot can register to vote at