Twenty years after a Democrat last occupied the Governor's office, two seasoned and capable city mayors are seeking the Democratic nomination to oppose Gov. M. Jodi Rell. The polls and pundits peg the eventual Democratic nominee as a certain underdog amid the electorate's continuing post-Rowland euphoria. But spring forecasts seven months away from Election Day can be as wrong as a New England meteorologist.
New Haven's John DeStefano and Stamford's Dannel Malloy are also a departure from recent gubernatorial candidates. They will be better financed for a statewide contest (despite the cost of a primary). More important, they are leaving Gov. Rell in the dust on a range of issues that the state should address in the next administration. Talk that a primary on August 8th will hurt Democrats is also wrong. The primary campaign will allow a broader base than party regulars to get to know candidates and issues before Labor Day. That will boost Democratic chances in the fall.
At issue for Democrats is selecting the candidate who has the best chance of winning and whose agenda offers a clearer shift from the status quo, particularly on such issues as property tax relief and affordable health care. In New Britain, John DeStefano has emerged as an overwhelming choice to be the gubernatorial nominee.. While one or two issues do not define a candidacy, candidates' positions on property taxes and affordable health care are illustrative. They are compelling reasons why I will support and work for DeStefano in May, August and November.
Property Taxes: DeStefano, drawing on his work as Chair of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Property Tax Reform and Smart Growth, calls for a dramatic shift in the tax structure, ending reliance on the regressive property tax and supporting a more progressive income tax that would bring more equity, particularly in meeting costs of education at the local level. The reason is that the state's wealthiest residents pay 4.4 percent of incomes to local (property) and state taxes. Low and middle income residents pay double that amount. DeStefano supports a millionaire's tax to level the playing field. By contrast, Malloy shies away from any definitive change in the tax structure. While acknowledging the property tax is "at the heart of many of our State's problems," he offers a minimal approach of repealing the tax on manuf acturing property with a vague pledge to "institute smarter revenue sharing." A Governor DeStefano will deliver meaningful property tax relief and a concrete solution to New Britain residents hit hard by 40% assessment hikes three years ago.
Health Care:On the heels of Massachusetts adopting a bipartisan universal health plan, DeStefano is proposing a Connecticut universal plan that would be financed by closing $350 million in corporate loopholes to meet costs. The plan would establish a CT HealthCare Consortium from which small businesses, families and individuals could obtain affordable coverage. With an estimated 356,000 people in CT without coverage, the DeStefano "shared responsibility" plan would cover working low and middle income people who do not qualify for Medicaid and cannot afford high-cost premiums. Dan Malloy has commendably proposed expansion of the State's HUSKY program to cover all uninsured children. But the question can reasonably be asked: what is Dan Malloy's plan for covering the parents who are unable to obtain coverage in the present system? A Governor DeStefano will make universal health coverage a reality.
A Strategy To Energize The Base: Dan Malloy maintains he is more electable because he can cut into a big vote for Rell in Fairfield County while holding on to the Democratic base. The strategy is evident in Malloy's positions on property taxes and health care. They would not alter the status quo. They won't energize the base, either.
John DeStefano's strategy is to energize the Democratic base and move unaffiliated voters into the D column with the force of his ideas for change. On the stump, DeStefano tells his audiences that the election is not about him or Dan Malloy. It is about "improving the lives of middle-class and working families." He speaks with a passion and clarity that will win over undecideds, energize the base and put him in the corner office in January 2007.