Republican Bob Stefanowski said no negative inferences should be drawn from his gubernatorial campaign, eliminating his campaign manager, senior adviser and television consultant over a three-week period in August.
“No, I think we’re perfectly positioned after Labor Day,” Stefanowski said in an interview Monday night.
Stefanowski’s new television consultant is Larry Weitzner of Jamestown Associates, who has done commercials for Donald J. Trump’s 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns, as well as a slate of New England governors.
Stefanowski and his senior adviser, Fairfield’s Liz Kurantowicz, parted ways on Friday, with the campaign and Kurantowicz jointly announcing in a written statement Saturday that his departure was the result of “strategic differences.”
In separate interviews on Monday, neither the candidate nor the consultant bothered to articulate those differences. Stefanowski said the three changes were unrelated.
On Aug. 1, former state Rep. Dan Carter left as campaign manager, replaced by Patrick Sasser, a grassroots leader in opposition to Governor Ned Lamont’s 2019 toll proposal. The change n wasn’t made public until Sasser spoke to the Hartford Courant for nine days. later.
Sasser is a full-time firefighter from Stamford, which means the new campaign manager will not be a daily physical presence at Stefanowski’s campaign headquarters in Branford, an unusual arrangement.
“I can reach Pat Sasser at any time. I don’t think I ever called him and he didn’t pick up the phone,” Stefanowski said. “So he manages it day to day.”
Sasser could not be reached. The campaign has a full-time assistant, George Brehl, who was also a full-time staffer in 2018.
Stefanowski had relied on two strategic advisers since January: Kurantowicz, a former executive director of the Connecticut Republican Party; and Chris Russell of Checkmate Strategies, a New Jersey company.
Russell, who could not be reached on Monday, was a campaign adviser to Jack Ciattarelli, the Republican who lost 3 percentage points to Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey in a surprisingly close race last year. .
Russell remains an adviser to Stefanowski.
“He’s definitely a big part of the strategy,” said Sarah Clark, who recently took a leave of absence from the Republican state Senate office to handle Stefanowski’s press.
Clark and Kurantowicz worked together on Tim Herbst’s campaign for state treasurer in 2014. Clark praised Kurantowicz’s work for Stefanowski.
“Liz has given an enormous amount of time and talent to the campaign, and I wish her the best,” Clark said.
Stefanowski focused on portfolio issues, criticizing the governor for not providing more tax relief on the state surplus to offset the impact of inflation.
Democrats counter that they used the surplus to provide immediate relief, such as a child tax credit and a gasoline excise tax suspension, and saved millions by paying down debt.
Stefanowski said the race remains competitive.
The most recent nonpartisan public poll was a survey released May 26 by Quinnipiac that showed Lamont leading Stefanowski, 51% to 43%. An Emerson College poll earlier in May had Lamont with an 18-point lead.
Stefanowski said the $2.4 million spent by the Democratic Governors Association to support wealthy Lamont shows Democrats view the self-funded governor as vulnerable.
“Otherwise they wouldn’t,” Stefanowski said. “So we think it’s going to be a real competitive race. We’d like to refine the message a bit after Labor Day, and that will put us on top.
Stefanowski also largely self-funds his campaign with $10 million of his own money. Republican super PACs have spent more than $2.6 million attacking Lamont in support of Stefanowski.
Fine-tuning Stefanowski’s message will likely fall to Russell and Weitzner. Responsibility for its publicity will shift from Chris Mottola of California to Weitzner and Jamestown Associates, Stefanowski’s television consultant in 2018.
“He’s the one we used in 2018,” Stefanowski said. “We thought after Labor Day people would now focus on running, which they weren’t necessarily during the summer. We like the job they did last time. So we decided to make this gesture. »
While Trump is the most high-profile client of Weitzner and his Jamestown associates, the Stefanowski campaign has been quick to highlight his work for Republican governors in blue states, including Charlie Baker of Massachusetts.
“No company has helped elect more Republican governors in the Deep Blue Northeast than Jamestown,” the company states on its website. “In Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New Jersey, we produced award-winning ad campaigns that helped turn three governorates from blue to red.”
Weitzner’s list of current governors also includes New Hampshire’s Chris Sununu. Past clients include former Governor M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut and Chris Christie of New Jersey.
On Tuesday, Stefanowski will play a game for winning the Independent Party’s crossover endorsement. That would give him a second line of voting, as Lamont will have thanks to his cross-endorsement by the Working Families Party.
Stefanowski and his wife, Amy, will host an invitation-only reception for Independent Party members at their home in Madison. The party will nominate a candidate at 7:30 p.m. at a community center in Guilford.
The party’s state central committee endorsed Rob Hotaling for the nomination rather than backing Stefanowski as the party did four years ago. Stefanowski wasn’t sure Monday night if he would attend caucus.