Herbst debates GOP foes, updates fundraising efforts

First Selectman Tim Herbst emphasizes a point during his speech announcing his intention to run for governor. — Dylan Haviland photo
First Selectman Tim Herbst emphasizes a point during his speech announcing his intention to run for governor. — Dylan Haviland photo

Former First Selectman Tim Herbst pronounced himself satisfied with the state of his campaign Tuesday, following a week in which candidates for governor updated their current fund-raising totals and participated in the second of five scheduled GOP debates.

“I felt good about it [the debate], and I got very good feedback from professional commentators,” Herbst said. “But at the end of the day, I am more focused on articulating a vision so I come across as the most compelling candidate on the stage.”

The second debate included Mayors Mark Lauretti of Shelton and Mark Boughton of Danbury, both of whom missed the first debate. A non-scientific online poll conducted by the state Republican Committee showed a plurality of voters thought Boughton had won it. Herbst, who was handily declared the winner of the first debate by the same polling method, finished mid-pack in the second debate poll. He said the results did not concern him.

“I didn’t go on social media and push the poll to my followers until my knuckles went numb, like some other people did,” he said. “But if you notice on Facebook Live, people watching the debate made many positive comments about the points I was making. That’s really more reliable, because these are people watching the debate and reacting as it happened.”

The second debate followed a similar format as the first, with candidates for the most part sticking to their talking points — Herbst declaring himself a proven reformer, Lauretti citing his 27 years as mayor and track record of not increasing taxes, and Boughton touting Danbury’s economic growth. State Rep. Toni Boucher repeatedly said she was the candidate with the best chance of winning. Steve Obsitnik spoke of his experience in the Navy and in the tech world.

The candidates, with one notable exception, avoided direct confrontation with each other. The exception was Peter Lumaj, who repeatedly ripped all the other candidates as career politicians who were responsible for the state’s economic woes, an accusation Herbst brushed off.

“He calls all the other people career politicians, but the fact is that he’s a career candidate,” Herbst said. “He runs for office all the time — the difference is he doesn’t win.”

With national news organizations like politico.com calling the 2018 governor’s race in Connecticut a toss-up, Herbst said, the GOP candidates should pull together and back the eventual nominee.

“I do believe the next governor will be a Republican,” he said. “The press is really paying attention, and the state is ready to make a change in leadership.”

That change is likely to be generational, in addition to being ideological, Herbst said, which played into his hands as the youngest candidate in the field, of either party.

Fund-raising nears goal

Herbst also released his campaign fund-raising status this week, announcing that he had raised about $22,000 in the past three months, leaving him at a total of $217,309. Herbst’s original fund-raising goal was to raise the $250,000 necessary to qualify for the state public campaign financing program by the end of 2017, a deadline he later amended to “early 2018.”

He said his campaign fund-raising efforts, and results, had not slowed, and he expected to reach the $250,000 threshold by the end of the month.

“Fund raising in the fourth quarter of the year is always a challenge, with Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and everybody focused on the holidays,” he said. “I’m the only candidate who is refusing to take any help from Hartford lobbyists. If it takes me a little longer, so be it, but I’m going to get there.”