On March 27, the Fairfield Theatre Company stage became the platform for launching a series of town hall meetings hosted by Oz Griebel, an independent candidate for governor, and his running mate Monte Frank.
Griebel, a Republican who switched his voter status to an unaffiliated designation, was president and CEO of MetroHartford Alliance from 2001 until last December and was CEO at BankBoston Connecticut from 1993 to 1999. He sought his party’s nomination in the 2010 election, losing to Greenwich businessman Tom Foley. Frank, a Democrat who also switched to an unaffiliated party status, is a member in the litigation practice in the Bridgeport office of Pullman & Comley and is immediate past president of both the Connecticut Bar Association and the New England Bar Association. This is his first race for public office.
According to Griebel, the nonpartisan approach offers the best solution for addressing Connecticut’s problems. “The only way we’re going to resolve some of the issues facing us is with an independent look,” he said. “Over the last 20 years, the two-party system has failed us. This independent approach will allow us to bring people together. When the electorate elects us, that is going to send a strong message to both parties: the voters in Connecticut don’t want the same-old.”
Frank added that having independents at the top of the state’s political spectrum would help to avoid continued partisan divisions. “The Senate remains split 18-18,” he said. “As lieutenant governor, I’m going to be breaking the ties. It’s going to force the Democrats and Republicans to get together on a bipartisan basis and come up with resolutions.”
Griebel pledged that he and Frank would use statewide office to serve “as the chief marketing officers for the state of Connecticut,” and would hold regular meetings with private-sector companies of all sizes to discuss ideas and to focus on how to improve Connecticut’s business climate.
“When we’re talking to them about what’s good about the state and listening to their concerns, that’s where we start changing attitudes,” he said. “We didn’t get into this fiscal mess in 20 minutes and we’re not going to get out in 20 minutes.”
Griebel also said the top priorities for the next governor should be seeking to expand employment opportunities and stem the outward migration of Connecticut residents.
“It’s about jobs,” he continued. “Most people are going to locate to areas where there are employment opportunities. That could be somebody right out of school or somebody who is 55 years old. We’re going to be convincing the private sector employers that the jobs which are here should stay here and not be in South Carolina or New Hampshire.”
Frank noted that having candidates who are private — sector professionals would benefit any pro-business strategy. “Neither one of us is a career politician and that distinguishes us from a lot of the other folks in the race,” he said. “We understand business, we’ve been working in the business world for a long time and those qualities will allow us to ensure our businesses are healthy, retain jobs here and grow the next jobs here.”
The candidates need to collect 7,500 petition signatures by August in order to gain a spot on the November ballot. As for their chances of winning, Griebel stated that 45 percent of Connecticut voters are independents and insisted that this campaign should not be viewed as a spoiler effort.
“We’re here to win,” he said. “As for the idea of who is the spoiler — the fact is, the two-party system spoiled the democratic process.”