HARTFORD - The Independent Party of Connecticut on Sunday cross-endorsed Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski and the slate of GOP statewide candidates, giving them a second spot on the November ballot.
Stefanowski secured the win by defeating petitioning independent candidate Oz Griebel; fellow Republican Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti; Libertarian Rob Hanscomb; and Democrat Mark Stewart. Griebel had argued he was the only true independent in the group and expressed disappointment with Sunday’s results, but resolved to push ahead.
His campaign tweeted: “.002 percent of people from the Independent Party of Connecticut came out to vote tonight. While we didn’t get the line, our ballot access is on the brink through signature collection by dedicated volunteers.”
The caucus came days after a Superior Court judge issued a ruling in a yearslong legal battle over who are the rightful party leaders of the party, which organizers estimate has roughly 30,000 members.
There’s been a long-running dispute between two factions of the party - one from Waterbury and the other from Danbury. The Waterbury group lays claim to having created the party and getting it qualified as a statewide party after members collected signatures and nominated Ralph Nader for president in 2008. But in 2016, the two factions nominated separate slates of candidates, and that led to the party not having a line on the ballot for U.S. Senate that year.
Last week, the judge sided with the Waterbury faction in the dispute and ordered the Secretary of the State’s Office to accept the group’s endorsements and nominations.
The Danbury group is expected to appeal the judge’s decision. It has been accused of being a proxy for the Republican Party by mostly cross-endorsing GOP candidates. Rocco Frank Jr., of Milford, the vice chairman of the Independent Party of Connecticut and a leader of the Waterbury faction, said independents should have a right to vote for their own candidates.
“We don’t want to be a rubber stamp party,” Frank said.
Messages were left seeking comment with the Danbury faction’s attorney and Stefanowski’s campaign manager.
A cross endorsement was key in the 2010 Connecticut governor’s race. That’s when Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy narrowly defeated Republican Tom Foley with the extra votes he received as the Working Families Party candidate. This year, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont has also been endorsed by the Working Families Party and his name will appear twice on the November ballot.
If Griebel had received the minor party’s endorsement, his name wouldn’t have appeared twice in November. Even though he’s close to getting 7,500 signatures approved as a petitioning candidate, the ability to be cross endorsed is only available to the two major party nominees.