Earlier tonight I attended the Connecticut Attorney General debate at UCONN Law. Democrat George Jepsen debated Republican Martha Dean. The debate started off rather light but after the first question or two the contrast between them could not have been larger. George Jespen framed himself as a traditional democrat while Martha Dean embraced her position as the tea party candidate.
This was especially apparent when candidates were asked how they would respond to the state government attempting to slash the Attorney Generalâ€™s office budget by ten percent. Jepsen pointed out that the office manages to bring in revenue for the state and while he certainly would work to create efficiency he suggested that the government not be â€œpenny-wise and pound-foolish.â€ Dean said she would work to create efficiency and claimed that there is a lot of waste in the office that she could eliminate. She did not elaborate on the waste but referenced a state auditorâ€™s report. In her rebuttal she expressed concern that Jepsen saw the Attorney Generalâ€™s office as a source of revenue. She claimed that it â€œviolated the separation of powersâ€ for the Attorney Generalâ€™s office to be a revenue source and that only the legislature could do that.
When asked about the qualifications she would look for in employees Dean attacked young people. She recited the quote â€œif you are under 20 and not a liberal you have no heart, and if you are over 40 and not a conservative you have no brain.â€ She then proceeded to suggest that young people should work in the â€œreal worldâ€ for a few years before they should be allowed to serve in government. Jepsen was more realistic and raised the fact that due to the state budget crises it was unlikely he would be able to hire new attorneys soon, but did agree that fresh law school graduates should spend a few years in other jobs before moving to government.
Candidates spent a lot of time talking about Richard Blumenthal. Jepsen generally stuck by Blumenthal and Candidate Dean attempted to paint Jepsen as being too close to Blumenthal and also accused Jepsen of being political. Jepsen responded by pointing out that Dean herself was political and reiterating that he was proud of his service. Both candidates certainly raised political issues and Dean was not reluctant to admit she would consider putting out position papers on important issues like Blumenthal does.
The other theme in the debate was George Jepsen. Jepsen laid out his views, positions, and took only a few jabs at Dean. In contrast, Dean not only extolled her own virtues, but spent a lot of time attacking Jepsen. She attained the nearly magical feat of being in control and out of control at the same time by moving questions away from their issue and turning them into attacks. Jepsen was more reserved preferring to address the issues and only went off topic when Dean steered the debate in that direction.
This resulted in Dean giving the debate win to George Jepsen on a silver platter. Had Dean decided to keep focused on her own virtues I think she would have been able to win it. Instead she chose to keep the focus on Jepsen and as a result his thoughtful statements and lighthearted manner shined through.