Herbst battles candidates, media, in fourth GOP debate

Four down, one to go.

Former First Selectman Tim Herbst squared off with eight other Republican gubernatorial hopefuls last week at New Britain High School. The GOP candidates have one more debate scheduled, April 18 in New Canaan.

“The Connecticut that many of you know is no longer the Connecticut we live in today,” Herbst said in his opening statement. “We are in this mess because for 40 years politicians of both parties have focused on the next election and have not focused on the next generation.”

Questions from the moderators tended to bring similar answers from candidates. All the candidates on stage blamed Gov. Dannel Malloy, and Democrats in general, for the state’s economic condition. All also agreed that the state taxes and spends too much and that any Republican candidate would be a better governor than any of the Democratic candidates.

Herbst replied to a question about the state’s shrinking prison population, currently at its lowest since the early 1990s, with a repeat of his earlier pledge to re-introduce the death penalty in the state.

“You have 64% of the people in this state that support the death penalty, yet the legislature repealed the death penalty,” he said. “I think that’s a disgrace.”

Herbst also endorsed a death penalty review process similar to the one introduced by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts, with a heavy emphasis on DNA evidence.

Herbst also complained about the politicization of judicial candidates, renewing his attacks on former chief justice nominee Andrew McDonald, whose nomination he called “the most political … I have ever seen.”

Herbst agreed with the other candidates that judicial appointments made by Malloy should not be automatically renewed, but said he would re-appoint judges with a track record that could be reviewed by the legislature.

“That’s the one place where politics should not be, the judiciary,” he said.

Herbst also got the loudest ovation of the night from the GOP crowd with a two-pronged attack on Malloy and the media in response to a question about whether he would have signed the Republican-backed budget bill that passed along mostly party lines.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KM0KTWqojw[/embedyt]

Full video on CT Republicans Youtube channel.

“I think it says a hell of a lot that both sides of the aisle said, “Governor, don’t participate in these budget negotiations, we’ll do it ourself,” he said. “That says a lot about our governor.”

When moderators from NBC 30 and the CT Mirror asked whether he would have signed the bill, Herbst replied that it would never have reached his desk. This led to a brief back-and-forth in which the moderators said Herbst had not answered the yes-or-no question they had asked.

“I’m giving you the answer — you just don’t like the answer,” Herbst said.