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Independent governor candidate Rob Hotaling: 'I’m the only one who can break the blue-red divide'

Speaking October 2, 2022, on Where We Live, Independent gubernatorial candidate Rob Hotaling said competition is needed beyond Democratic and Republican candidates.
Mark Mirko
Connecticut Public
Speaking on "Where We Live" on Oct. 2, 2022, Independent gubernatorial candidate Rob Hotaling said competition is needed beyond Democratic and Republican candidates.

The road to securing the Independent Party nomination for governor has been anything but straightforward for Rob Hotaling.

Earlier this year, Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski challenged Hotaling’s nomination, claiming that Hotaling was improperly nominated at the party’s August caucus.

Stefanowski was hoping for a cross endorsement from the Independent Party and a second line on the November ballot. But last month, a judge struck down that challenge, allowing Hotaling to keep his place on the ballot.

Speaking Thursday on Connecticut Public Radio's Where We Live, Hotaling said that voters should view him as credible and viable – and that competition is needed beyond Democratic and Republican candidates.

He said being an independent means he’s not beholden to the Republican or Democratic parties. Other candidates on the ballot include Stefanowski and incumbent Democraticn Gov. Ned Lamont. Election Day is Nov. 8.

Hotaling, a senior vice president for a bank, said he’s a proven problem-solver.

“I may not be a multimillionaire but I’m definitely an innovator, and a listener and a collaborator,” Hotaling said. “I believe I stand the best chance of taking the best ideas from parties, unlike my competitors, who are beholden to the left or the right. I’m the only one who can break the blue-red divide and take the best.”

Hotaling said he’s previously been part of both Republican and Democratic parties.

“Actually being part of both those parties makes it even better,” he said. “So a lot of my platform [is] beholden to the best ideas, not the parties.”

Historically, Independent Party candidates have garnered just a small minority of votes in Connecticut, but the unaffiliated continue to be the largest and growing population of voters in the state.

Here are some highlights from Hotaling’s appearance on Where We Live.

On viewing his candidacy as credible

I would argue that the Independent Party, although I'm on the Independent Party line, we actually represent the unaffiliated the most. … But 41% of the electorate – over 900,000 people – are registered unaffiliated; they're unaffiliated for a reason. It means they do not want to align to the Republicans or the Democrats. There's a reason for that. And that means they control the fate of the election, not the Democrats and Republicans.

Most unaffiliated have something very unfair from the two-party system that they don't even recognize right now. We have what's called closed primaries. So the unaffiliated are taxpayers. Taxpayer money is spent to conduct and facilitate the primaries by the Democrats and Republicans. So you have 900,000 people who pay for something who can't contribute. .... I'm championing open primaries. So if you're registered unaffiliated, you'll be able to select one of which primaries that you'd like to vote in. That is critical, because out of those primaries, determines who gets the general election.

People may not understand why electoral reform is so important. … It's foundational. Why? Because you can't even bring new ideas to the table. Traditionally, third-party candidates are the ones who bring the most progressive or newest ideas to the table, not the major parties. …

If the majority of the unaffiliated vote for me, it is not a throwaway vote; I win. It's that simple.

On Bob Stefanowski challenging his nomination

Because the past two or three Republican governor candidates had received that [ballot] line. So they felt entitled to it. But prior to me, there wasn't really a strong governor candidate. That's actually an Independent Party member running. So it made sense, "Let's cross endorse." But the party made clear from the beginning that they wanted their own gubernatorial candidate. And that was me. …

He galvanized not just me in my campaign, as well as the party, but the general public who are part of the Independent Party, and they realize: "Wait, I'm not just an affiliate of an Independent Party, I'm going to come out." And we had a tie.

On reforming public education 

Our educational cost sharing or ECS funding model needs to be restructured. … It's currently based on income and property taxes, rather than on actual student achievement, which is really mostly determined from classroom size and student-teacher ratios. The better that ratio, the more attention to each child, the more the child progresses in schooling, and then augmenting that with additional forms of education.

I've heard both Bob [Stefanowski] and Ned [Lamont] go back and forth about pitting parents against teachers. … That whole debate is ... a falsehood. I think from the beginning, parents and teachers have always been in coordination.

One last area that I strongly believe in — in terms of education and [putting] ourselves in the right playing field — is just the focus. I know we talk a lot about STEM, and I am from technology. But I've heard a new one called STEAM, I would add that arts right in the middle. So science, technology, arts, engineering, and math; we need to have STEAM.

And lastly, financial literacy. That's a big one. For me, I think that there's a huge gap. ... Does the average person even understand what a checking account is, a savings account is, what a mortgage is, what a what a line of credit is. Those types of concepts should be sprinkled in over time, sort of like language arts; it should be financial education.

Interview highlights have been condensed and edited for clarity.

Watch Hotaling’s appearance on Where We Live

Watch the other candidates for governor on Connecticut Public Radio’s Where We Live

Incumbent Ned Lamont appeared onWhere We Liveon Sept. 8 and painted an optimistic picture as the state continues to live through a COVID-19 pandemic that has defined much of the Democrat’s first term.

Republican challenger Bob Stefanowski appeared onWhere We Liveon Sept. 6 and said if elected governor, people will “live their lives as they see fit.”

Lucy leads Connecticut Public's strategies to deeply connect and build collaborations with community-focused organizations across the state.
Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.
Eric Aasen is executive editor at Connecticut Public, the statewide NPR and PBS service. He leads the newsroom, including editors, reporters, producers and newscasters, and oversees all local news, including radio, digital and television platforms. Eric joined Connecticut Public in 2022 from KERA, the NPR/PBS member station in Dallas-Fort Worth, where he served as managing editor and digital news editor. He's directed coverage of several breaking news events and edited and shaped a variety of award-winning broadcast and digital stories. In 2023, Connecticut Public earned a national Edward R. Murrow Award for coverage that explored 10 years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, as well as five regional Murrow Awards, including Overall Excellence. In 2015, Eric was part of a KERA team that won a national Online Journalism Award. In 2017, KERA earned a station-record eight regional Murrow Awards, including Overall Excellence. Eric joined KERA after more than a decade as a reporter at The Dallas Morning News. A Minnesota native, Eric has wanted to be a journalist since he was in the third grade. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from DePauw University in Indiana, where he earned a political science degree. He and his wife, a Connecticut native, have a daughter and a son, as well as a dog and three cats.

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