Substance Marks Gubernatorial Campaign

July 04, 2010

Recently democratic political consultant Jon Pelto penned an op-ed for CT News Junkie chiding the democratic candidates for governor for going negative. This was followed with some press and most recently a column by Colin McEnroe in the Hartford Courant raising similar issues. Specifically McEnroe has stated:

I know what you're thinking: Is there no candidate who has managed to rise above all this petty squabbling, no candidate who can stop bickering long enough to address the massive and extremely boring structural financial problems pushing this state to the brink of ruin? Well, no. There isn't. And I can't believe you would bring up such a trivial and personal concern as the future of Connecticut while the candidates are working so hard to thrash out the incredibly difficult and knotty matter of which one of them is a bigger toolbox.

Yet candidates are and have been tackling policy and the future of Connecticut directly. In between exchanging the barbs with each other Dan Malloy most recently unveiled his education plan while Ned Lamont focused on transportation. If you visit Dan Malloy’s YouTube channel he has a little over 100 videos. Many, if not a majority, addressing Connecticut policy issues from his visits around the state since he began exploring his run for governor. Meanwhile Ned Lamont aired a commercial asking people to go to his website to read about his plan for Connecticut.

It seems the problem remains that these policy conferences and ideas seem to lack the element of sexiness that excites the media and electorate. Can Colin McEnroe really write an amusing article about Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and their impact on the budget? The drama of Jon Pelto’s declaration that democrats might “suck” certainly seems to have generated more discussion on the web and about this race than Dan Malloy’s proposals for early childhood education. Even here on MyLeftNutmeg there seems to be more effort put into attacking Dan Malloy or Ned Lamont than debating policy issues like transportation and transparency. In contrast the NBC30 debate highlighted policy issues and the candidates had an opportunity to discuss what they would cut in the budget or their position on the death penalty.

The bloggers and columnists may and will continue to criticize the state of the horserace. As a political junkie myself I make no apology for the fact that I devour every poll and endorsement with the zeal of a rabid sports fan. However at the same time these small things cannot and should not be allowed to drown out the larger and more important discussions. We cannot pretend that these discussions are not happening in our legislature, city halls, and at our kitchen tables. A week or two ago I got my tuition bill from the UCONN law school. After the legislature took money from the UCONN Operating Reserve Account to cover their budget gap I find my tuition has gone up and my aid has gone significantly down from last year. An experience I imagine many other UCONN students and Connecticut families had when they got their bills and something that I care about so much more than Tom Foley’s arrest record.

So I issue this challenge, not just to Colin or Jon, but to everyone as we go into August and then November. Let’s have the great discussion about the issues and future of our state. Let’s find a way to make energy policy sexy or transportation policy dramatic to the average voter. Let’s use our bully pulpit to get voters to ask if they really think that they want more trains or solar panels in Connecticut. Yes we’ll certainly continue to have the vigorous debates about the character and experience of our candidates. There are important and valid debates to be had on whether we want to be lead by a businessman or statesman. However let us not get distracted from the fact that these bigger discussions about Connecticut’s future are happening and we need to continue to have them.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.