Three state Democrats vying to become the next governor of Connecticut spoke at a New Haven school last night to galvanize support behind the Democratic ticket in this fall’s election.
All three Democratic gubernatorial candidates — Bill Curry, George Jepsen and John Nussbaum — criticized Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland at a meeting sponsored by the New Haven Democrats at Conte-West Hills Magnet School yesterday. The three also outlined their platforms and promised reform in education, taxation, health care and municipal economic development.
The candidates, one of whom will face incumbent Rowland in this fall’s election, each sought the endorsement of the New Haven Democratic Town Committee and tried to get the public to support the Democrats’ bid for the state’s top office, which has been in Republican control since 1986.
In the coming weeks, the Democratic Town Committee will discuss endorsement procedures and whether a primary should be held at all.
Susan Voigt, the chairwoman of the Democratic Town Committee, said bypassing primary elections may be advantageous in the race against Rowland.
“We want to build a kind of unity,” she said.
Curry, a former state comptroller who lost a bid for governor in 1994, said Rowland has put “politics above professionalism” by allowing the state debt to climb during his tenure. Connecticut has the highest tax-supported debt per capita in the nation, and 11 percent of current taxes go toward paying the interest on that debt.
Promising to reform the current “regressive tax structure,” Curry said, “I will clean this up.”
Economic development seems to be a major issue tingeing the dialogue of the Democratic race. Nussbaum, a New Haven businessman and a former chairman of the Democratic Party’s Finance Committee, said he would draw from his experience in the private sector “to develop a correct agenda for the state in the 21st century.” He said he plans to improve routes of commerce and public transportation to jump start the economy.
“John Rowland is failing to address Connecticut’s core problems,” he said. “The health and economic benefits of citizens are at risk.”
Like Curry and Nussbaum before him, Jepsen expressed concern over education in Connecticut, pointing out disparities between suburban and city schools. He added that the job market needs a skilled work force, and the educational system is “leaving urban students behind.”
After describing the development of his political career, Jepsen segued into issues he planned to tackle if elected governor. He said that as state Senate majority leader, he helped raise the minimum wage, passed the country’s first state “Patient’s Bill of Rights,” and helped pass a ban on soft money. In addition, he said he was proud to have received an “F minus” from the National Rifle Association for his stance supporting gun control laws. Jepsen said he supports better day care for working, single and lower-income women and advocated a system of managed health care.
Despite the candidates’ enthusiasm Tuesday night, Rowland held a sizeable lead over his Democratic rivals in a recent University of Connecticut poll. Respondents favored the two-term Republican governor over Curry by 25 points, 54 percent to 29 percent. Rowland held a larger lead over Jepsen, with 57 percent to the senator’s 24 percent.
–The Associated Press contributed to this story.