A dozen Republican candidates fight for dollars and support over Greenwich steaks
Stakes were high for the 12 Republican statewide and congressional candidates who jockeyed for support and campaign money in the private dining room of Gabriele’s Italian Steakhouse in Greenwich.
The newfound popularity of the Greenwich Republican Town Committee’s annual June meeting — usually just a collection of committee updates and a visit from a guest speaker — did not go unnoticed by the Committee members on Wednesday evening.
“There is definitely an excitement in the air,” said Rich Dipreta, Greenwich RTC chairman.
Perhaps it was having three Republican gubernatorial hopefuls — party endorsed candidate Mark Boughton, and primary qualifiers Tim Herbst and Steve Obsitnik — each laying out their vision for the state over cocktails within 10 feet of one another.
“Some candidates like to hide behind their T.V. advertisements,” said Obsitnik, a Westport tech entrepreneur. “I like to get out there with voters.”
It also didn’t hurt that the approximately 90 Republican voters in the room were likely campaign contributors, observed U.S. Senate endorsed candidate Matthew Corey, a window washer from Manchester, with his challenger, former Apple sales manager Dominic Rapini of Branford, nearby.
“I’m a small business owner who reflects most of middle America,” said Corey. More of his donors are giving him $5 contributions than $2,000 contributions, he lamented.
Attorney general candidate John Shaban, a lawyer and former state representative from Redding, decided to attend the Greenwich event after ending his participation hours earlier in the state’s Clean Elections Program, which provides public funding to candidates running for elected office. The decision frees up Shaban to collect bigger campaign donations from individuals.
During dinner, Erin Stewart, New Britain mayor and lieutenant governor candidate, sat next to her former running mate Peter Tesei, first selectman of Greenwich. Stewart and Tesei shared a ticket for just over two weeks, before Stewart ended her bid for governor and declared for lieutenant governor instead.
At other tables, lieutenant governor candidates Jamies Stevenson, first selectman of Darien, and Joe Markley, a Southington state senator and the GOP’s endorsed candidate for the job, chatted with RTC members.
Also at the steakhouse rendez-vous were Greenwich local Harry Arora, who running for Congress in the 4th District, Republican endorsed treasurer candidate Thad Gray and GOP endorsed secretary of the state hopeful Susan Chapman.
With so many Republican candidates pushing for office and the state Senate on the verge of seeing a Republican majority for the first time in two decades, it’s hard not to be optimistic, said DiPreta. That’s even when Greenwich Democrats are putting up a new fight for state legislative seats, buoyed by Trump resistance.
“We’ll find out how people feel about the local government and our incumbents,” said DiPreta confidently.
Even one of the few nonpartisan people at the party, Jim Smith, the longtime chief executive of Webster Bank and a chairman of the state’s Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth, noticed the GOP enthusiasm in the steakhouse.
“The tone, the aura in the room, the sense of optimism that is here is extraordinary,” he said.
Smith, too, had an agenda. As the evening’s guest speaker, he was pitching the Republicans on the recommendations of his state commission to save the state economy, of which lawmakers only implemented a few in the 2018 legislative session.
On January 1 of next year, the new governor will have the results of the tax study his commission proposed on his desk, Smith noted, and that person might have been in the room Wednesday.
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