Herbst racing the primary clock

Tim Herbst
Tim Herbst

Football legend Vince Lombardi is said to have once remarked that his team had not lost a game, it had just run out of time.

Former four-term Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, whose own football playing days have featured prominently in his campaign advertisements, is hoping time doesn’t run out on his candidacy for governor Aug. 14. Herbst, who tied for third among five Republican candidates in the only public poll of the statewide GOP gubernatorial primary race, said his own internal polls indicated he had closed the gap to his opponents and momentum was on his side.

“The most important thing is not where the numbers are, but where the momentum is,” Herbst said Tuesday while campaigning in Griswold. “We’ve been gaining a point a day. Now, it’s a fight against the clock.”

Herbst came out of the GOP convention as one of three candidates to qualify for next Tuesday’s primary. The other two are Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who won the party’s nomination, and Westport tech entrepreneur Steve Obsitnik. But in recent weeks it has been the back-and-forth between petitioning candidates Bob Stefanowski and David Stemerman that has garnered headlines as they traded accusations of shady business practices, lax voting habits and changing party affiliations. Herbst called their mudslinging “a murder-suicide” that had helped his campaign.

“We have been the beneficiaries of their implosion,” he said.

It is only in recent days that Stemerman released a campaign ad critical of Herbst, a mailer that portrayed him and Boughton as career politicians with little to differentiate them from Gov. Dannel Malloy. Herbst scoffed at the tactic, calling himself the only real Republican in the race.

“You have the two ex-Democrats, and the two RINOs,” he said. “The conservatives are behind my candidacy.”

Herbst also has worked to strengthen his standing among the party’s conservatives, repeatedly bringing up crime as an issue in debates, advocating for a re-institution of capital punishment, and promising a crackdown on sanctuary cities. He also has been touting his endorsements from the pro-Second Amendment Connecticut Citizens Defense League and the Family Institute of Connecticut, a group which has a vision statement “to once again see the Judeo-Christian principles that are articulated in the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution re-employed in our society and it’s [sic] public policy.”

Herbst also has promised to repeal guidelines issued by Malloy to police chiefs that discouraged local law enforcement taking action to enforce federal election laws and clarified that local police may not detain someone solely because of their immigration status.

Democrats have their own primaries next week, with Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim set to take on party-endorsed businessman Ned Lamont for the nomination for governor. Herbst said he had not given much thought to which candidate would be the more formidable opponent should he prevail in the GOP contest. But he does have campaign nicknames ready for either candidate, pointing out Lamont’s electoral losses in previous races for governor and U.S. Senate and Ganim’s criminal record.

“I’m ready for either one,” he said, “the retread or the felon.”