Soon after the publication of my Jan. 21 column, “Crowded field does not bode well for state,” concerning the 2018 race for governor in Connecticut, I got an email from the campaign of one candidate in that crowded field, Republican Tim Herbst.
His campaign spokesman challenged the accuracy of my description of Herbst as the “hard-right leaning former first selectman of Trumbull.” It wasn’t the first selectman part he had trouble with. The challenge came with an offer to sit down with the candidate, and last Tuesday columnist David Collins, Publisher Gary Farrugia and I did so.
So, I asked the candidate, how would he describe his place on the political spectrum?
“I’m a Tim Herbst Republican,” he said. “I am my own person, someone who tends to be fiscally conservative, but I also believe it is important to be socially inclusive.”
He then offered up Gov. Scott Walker’s fight to control labor costs in Wisconsin as an example of taking a tough stand when needed. In 2011, Walker’s call to take away the ability of public sector unions to bargain collectively over pensions and health care, limit pay raises to the rate of inflation, and require public unions to frequently recertify, generated massive protests. The proposals also won approval.
By blue Connecticut standards, Walker is “hard-right.” But dropping that name signals a candidate ready to play serious hardball with the state public labor unions. Conservative voters in a Republican primary will love it.
Reminded that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the Democratic legislature, in return for concessions, extended to 2027 the state employee contract covering pensions and health care, Herbst responded he would try to reopen it to find savings.
If the unions were not willing to renegotiate, Herbst said he would ask a court permission to unilaterally amend the contract, citing the state’s dire fiscal position. There is some precedent for such an action, but for the most part courts have been reluctant to bail governments out of contract obligations when they have the option of raising taxes to find the money.