A Democrat can plausibly run for governor in 2018 seeking to ban bump stocks and “ghost guns,” continue pro-immigrant “sanctuary” policies, and institute highway tolls.
A Republican can plausibly run for governor in 2018 calling for reopening a union concessions deal and opposing a minimum wage hike, taxpayer-funded campaign financing, or higher taxes on the rich.
Richard Nelson “Oz” Griebel is running for governor in 2018 doing all the above — as neither a Democrat nor a Republican.
Banking on voter frustration with the two major parties, Griebel, 68, is trying to replicate Lowell Weicker’s 1990 trick: Winning the gubernatorial election as an unaffiliated candidate appealing to voters in “the middle.”
Of course a lot more people knew Lowell Weicker, a U.S. senator, than currently know Oz Griebel. But he argues that he can change that in the coming months.
“We’re in a campaign right now to win the election Nov. 6,” Griebel said, referring to himself and running mate Monte Frank. “The campaign to change government starts on Nov. 7.”
Griebel made the comment during a joint appearance with lieutenant governor candidate Frank on an episode of WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven” program.
Griebel, a former banker who headed the MetroHartford Alliance business organization for 16 years, ran for governor once before, in 2010, as a Republican. He didn’t get the nomination.
Frank is a Democratic lawyer from Newtown who helped a citizens’ group that pushed for changes to gun laws to prevent a recurrence of the Sandy Hook massacre.
They’ve both changed their affiliation to unaffiliated — joining the largest group of voters in Connecticut — for the 2018 campaign.
Public = “Middle”
Frank argued that the Griebel-Frank ticket stands “where most people are, which is right in the middle. They care about creating jobs and maintaining our core values. They’re either slightly left of center or slightly right of center, which is where we are.”
Griebel and Frank are banking on a long-held notion about American politics, that general elections are won in the ideological center, where most voters turned off by major parties place themselves. The 2016 presidential election tested that conventional wisdom, as millions of independent-minded voters rejected candidates closer to the center (Hillary Clinton, John Kasich, Jeb Bush) for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. In fact, some of the same voters said they preferred both the polar-opposite Trump and Sanders to the other candidates. (For instance, 12 percent of Democrats who voted for Sanders in the Democratic primaries selected Trump in the general election.)
Griebel argued that the message there is that voters want authenticity, an advantage he said his independent ticket has in the 2018 gubernatorial race. “The ability to talk to people honestly — that to me is what people want,” he said. “People want to know what you think and you’re not catering to some kind of polling number.”
What that means for his campaign in practice is a platform that recognizes the need for some new revenue sources to address Connecticut’s budget problems, such as new interstate highway tolls and a rise in the gas tax, but also a revisiting of labor agreements to tackle huge pension obligations, Griebel said. He opposes single-payer health care, he said, and opposes a minimum wage hike because he doesn’t believe government should dictate to business. He said he supports the concept of “clean elections,” but not the idea of having taxpayer money go toward campaigns. He himself will not seek public financing for his campaign, he said. He said that in his previous business advocacy role, he has for years supported raising the gas tax and implementing tolls, as long as that money goes directly to improving the state’s transportation system. He called those improvements essential to luring jobs back to Connecticut.
He called job creation his top priority: “There’s no net job growth for 20 years. That’s a big deal,” he said. He promised to listen closely to businesses about what they need to stay here and expand. He said he’d consider the governor’s job “marketer-in-chief” for Connecticut business.
Sale-Leaseback vs. PILOT
A listener to the WNHH interview, Aaron Goode, asked Griebel via Facebook where he stands on the proposed $40 million state bailout of the city of Hartford.
Whatever happens in the short term, Griebel responded, Hartford — and other cities — need a longer-term strategy for bringing down mill rates and attracting new investment. He said he would borrow an idea from Detroit’s plan for emerging from bankruptcy: He’d sell off state office buildings in Hartford to private developers. He’d enter into 30-year leases with the owners for state offices.
“Does the state have to own any property in the city of Hartford?” he asked rhetorically. Answer: No. At least not most of the office buildings.
Putting that property back on the rolls would enable Hartford to slash its mill rate, helping families and businesses afford to remain in the city and attracting investment, Griebel argued.
He was asked if that would drive up the cost of occupying state offices, since landlords would factor new taxes on those properties into rents. He responded that the state will have negotiating leverage to keep rents down. “I don’t necessarily think you’re paying higher rent,” he said.
Griebel was also asked if this is just an end-around the PILOT problem — the continued failure of the legislature to fully fund the Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) program that is supposed to reimburse cities for all the educational and not-for-profit and state-owned property it can’t tax because of state-mandated exemptions. (A full 54 percent of New Haven’s property is tax-exempt.)
He responded that his sale-leaseback idea offers a longer-term structural change that puts not just property, but power in the hands of city decision-makers. Otherwise city leaders are at the mercy of state lawmakers who can, and regularly do, take from PILOT to cover other expenses.
“I don’t see how you’re ever going to change PILOT in that sense,” he said.
Griebel didn’t always go by “Oz.” High school friends started calling him Oz after the title character in the “Ozzie and Harriet” TV show. The name stuck. Decades later, his job is to put it on Connecticut’s lips.
Click on or download the above audio file or the Facebook Live video to hear the full episode of “Dateline New Haven” with independents Oz Griebel and Monte Frank.
WNHH interviews with other gubernatorial candidates:
Click above to hear the full WNHH interview with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Harris. Click here to read a story about that interview.
Click on the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below for the full interview with gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven.” Click here to read a story about the interview.
Click on the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below to hear the full “Dateline New Haven” interview with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Luke Bronin on WNHH FM, in which he also discussed, among other topics, the need for more vo-tech education and raining programs for coding and other high-tech jobs, as well as public-private job-creation partnerships. Click here to read an article about the interview.
Click on or download the above audio file or Facebook Live video below to listen to the full interview with Joe Ganim. Click here to read an article about the interview.
Click on or download the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below for an interview with Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Dita Bhargava on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven.” Click here to read a story about the interview.Click on or download the above audio file or on the Facebook Live video to below to hear an interview with GOP gubernatorial candidate Mike Handler on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven” program. Click here for a story about that interview.Click on or download the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below to hear an interview with GOP gubernatorial candidate Prasad Srinivasan on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven.” Click here to read a story about that interview.Click on the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below to hear a WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven” interview with GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Obsitnik. Click here to read a story about that interview.Click on or download the above audio file to hear a previous WNHH FM “Dateline New Haven” interview with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Ganim. Click here for a story about that interview.Click on or download the above audio file to a an interview with GOP gubernatorial candidate Mark Boughton on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven” program; and click here to read a story about that interview.Click on or download the above audio file to hear an interview with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Drew; and click here to read a story about the interview.