Stefanowski makes his presence known at Greenwich clambake

GREENWICH — Dozens of signs bordered a tree-lined dirt path at Greenwich Point Park Sunday afternoon, promoting nearly every Republican candidate running for federal, statewide and local office.

But there was one candidate who didn’t have any signs at the park, which was the site of the at the 87th annual clambake hosted by the Cos Cob Republican Club. That notable exception was Bob Stefanowski, the GOP nominee for governor.

“My signs are coming in,” Stefanowski said, laughing at the obvious. “It’s amazing how popular signs are.”

The lack of signage was striking considering Stefanowski was the guest of honor — and is arguably the current face of the party considering Democrats hold every Congressional seat — at Sunday’s clambake. Nearly 200 people showed up to hear him speak, many for the first time.

Maybe that’s why he stayed nearly an hour longer than the 30 minutes he’d planned to spend at the event. Stefanowski listened to party members, took pictures with them when asked and chatted about their experiences at the DMV. Meanwhile, the young campaign staffer tasked with driving him for the day lingered nearby, waiting to chauffeur him to his next campaign stop in Old Lyme. A red sticker reading, “Hi my name is: Bob Stefanowski,” clung to his right lapel.

“He’s introducing himself to a lot of these people for the first time,” said Ed Dadakis, former Greenwich Republican Town Committee chairman. “People don’t really know him down here.”

Greenwich was one of the 38 towns where Stefanowski didn’t win in the August primary. He earned just 633 votes there, losing to hedge fund mogul David Stemerman, who lives in town.

But Stefanowski has spent ample time in the town known for its deep pockets lately, attending fundraisers held on his behalf as he works to recover from an expensive five-way primary in which he marketed himself as a self-funding candidate. Several of the fundraisers have been organized by Leora Levy, a Republican National Committeewoman who is also running the finance committee of Stefanowski’s campaign.

Stefanowski spoke for about five minutes, talking up his plan to eliminate the state income tax and name-dropping Art Laffer, who has been paid more than $70,000 by Stefanowski’s campaign for economic consulting and speaking appearances, campaign finance reports show.

“A buddy of mine who I’ve known for about 20 years is Art Laffer,” Stefanowski said. “Art Laffer used to be Ronald Reagan’s chief economist, and he just did some work on the national tax plan. We are the perfect example of the Laffer curve. We are taxing people to the point where they are leaving the state and it needs to stop.”

Stefanowski said he’s grateful for the support of the Republican party, and his former competitors who’ve coalesced around him since the primary win. Westport tech entrepreneur Steve Obsitnik, who ran against Stefanowski in the primary, even made the drive to Greenwich Sunday afternoon. Absent was Stemerman who ran some of the most aggressive ads against Stefanowski in the primary, but is now helping with his campaign for governor.

“It was a bruising primary,” Stefanowski said. “I got tired of seeing those grainy pictures of me that I looked like Frankenstein. But once the primary was over, I sat down with David Stemerman, we met for three hours. What a terrific guy this is, what a terrific job he does on policy. He’s helping me figuring out the state employee pension problem. This party has rallied around me and I can’t tell you how happy I am about that ... I’m humbled and proud and energized.”

State Republican Party Chairman J.R. Romano said the state party has ordered 15,000 Stefanowski signs, which should arrive this week, along with 5,000 signs promoting Stefanowski alongside his running mate, state Sen. Joe Markley, who is the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor.

While Stefanowski’s campaign has recently upped its fundraising efforts — going so far as to say the TV ads he’s relied so heavily on might have to come off the air — the only person who mentioned fundraising at the clambake was Romano.

“I’ll be honest with you. Bob’s campaign, the state party, we have all the money we need. It just happens to be in your pockets,” Romano said.; 203-842-2563; @kaitlynkrasselt