Erin Stewart Monday became the youngest candidate officially in this year’s governor’s race — and made a point about it.
Stewart, the 30-year-old third-term mayor of New Britain, announced her official candidacy (i.e. no longer “exploratory”) for the Republican gubernatorial nomination at Central Connecticut State University — and on Facebook Live.
Both settings were chosen for a reason. Stewart made the point that she is a CSCU and New Britain public school alum, stating that it’s time for “a new generation of leadership,” especially if Connecticut wants to keep other young people here. And Stewart has been using Facebook Live — the kind of social-media tool that her generation relies on for news and engagement — to instantly reach thousands of potential supporters.
“It’s time for my generation to step up and lead the way,” Stewart said. “A lot of people in this state are looking for new leadership.”
Stewart also made a generational pitch for rejecting party orthodoxies. She faces a challenge in winning the Republican nomination because of her moderate views on some issues — she’s pro-choice for instance, and she raised taxes as New Britain’s governor. She made the argument in her announcement that a post-ideological candidate has the best choice of capturing the governor’s office as well as constitutional offices and both chambers of the legislature for her party. Republicans have far fewer registered voters in Connecticut than either the Democrats or the ranks of unaffiliated (the largest bloc).
“If you’re looking for a candidate who fits into a certain ideology, I’m probably not the candidate you’re looking for,” she stated in her announcement. “We need someone who can appeal far beyond the party.”
“There is so little to be gained by trying to be everyone’s friend. People are smart. They see through it,” Stewart argued.
She also decried “divide-and-conquer politics.”
In a sense, she was making the case for the kind of Republican who used to run for office in Connecticut: fiscally conservative, moderate to liberal on social issues, able to siphon off centrist votes. She also played up her credentials as an urban mayor; Republicans traditionally get most of their votes in Connecticut suburbs, not cities, in statewide races.
In addition to challenges appealing to a party that has moved right and rough, especially in the age of Trump, Stewart faces the challenge of started her campaign later than the rest of the crowded field. Her announcement Monday comes just six weeks before the Republican state nominating convention. Also, she noted her campaign needs to push to raise the initial $250,000 needed to qualify for public matching funds.
Click on the video below to watch her announcement: