Herbst: Stop the snarky rhetoric

Tim Herbst — timforconnecticut.com photo
Tim Herbst — timforconnecticut.com photo

The other Republican candidates for governor can run, but they can’t hide, according to former First Selectman Tim Herbst.

Herbst, who has qualified for an August primary against Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and Westport tech company founder Steve Obsitnik for the right to go up against presumptive Democratic nominee Ned Lamont, challenged his fellow candidates to participate in 10 public debates between now and August. Obsitnik has since released a statement indicating his willingness to participate in as many debates as possible before the primary. Boughton responded to the challenge by telling the Hartford Courant that Herbst does not run his schedule and that “We don’t let our campaign cave to a Timmy temper tantrum.” Boughton also suggested Herbst’s attacks were cover for lagging fund-raising efforts.

This week Herbst counterattacked, calling on Boughton to stop dodging debates by using “snarky rhetoric” and demanding that Boughton attend a proposed June 28 debate hosted by political commentator and former actor and professional baseball player Lee Elci at Mohegan Sun.

“Lee Elci has a long and demonstrated history of asking tough questions but always treating Republican candidates for office with fairness and respect,"”Herbst said. “If candidates cannot agree to even this debate, it should raise real questions in voters’ minds about their capacity to defeat Retread Ned Lamont and his Democratic insider allies in Hartford this November.”

The GOP currently has two gubernatorial debates scheduled, June 11 at the Shubert Theater in New Haven and June 13 at WFSB TV studios. Elci was among a list of 20 media members that Herbst suggested as potential debate hosts in a letter he sent to Boughton and Obsitnik, plus petitioning candidates David Stemerman, Bob Stefanowski and Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti.

“As you are now aware, last week I challenged you and each of the other candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor to a series of 10 debates. I have not received any reply from your campaign nor have I seen any response from you or your surrogates in the media,” Herbst wrote. “I hope you will agree that two debates, held within two days of each other in June, simply does not offer voters sufficient access to the candidates in a multi-person contest to be held over the course of three months. We had five Republican debates before the convention for the benefit of likely GOP delegates. 110,000 likely GOP primary voters deserve at least double the opportunity to hear and see the candidates answer tough questions as 1,100 convention delegates.”

The potential debate moderators Herbst listed included print, Internet and television journalists, plus talk radio hosts including WELI’s Vinnie Penn, NPR’s Colin McEnroe and WPLR morning hosts Chaz & A.J.