New London — Being disqualified from Wednesday night's gubernatorial debate hosted by The Day and WTNH News 8 did not stop independent candidate Oz Griebel from showing up to share his vision for leading Connecticut, and arguing that his exclusion was a "disservice" to voters.
Joined by his running mate, Newtown attorney Monte Frank, and a group of supporters, Griebel took questions from the media outside the Garde Arts Center before Democrat Ned Lamont and Republican Bob Stefanowski debated, and continued to argue that voters weren't given the opportunity to hear a platform that differs from those of the two major parties.
Griebel, a former, longtime Republican, headed the MetroHartford Alliance for 17 years before stepping down to run for governor.
"You can't run a government like a business," he said. "Government works for taxpayers, not for shareholders."
Griebel has described the job of the governor as being the chief marketing officer for the state.
Griebel said he and Frank, a former, longtime Democrat, got together last fall to discuss putting a ticket together as compared to the "shotgun marriages" of Lamont and his running mate, Susan Bysiewicz, and Stefanowski and his running mate, Joe Markley.
"We're in this fiscal mess because the two-party system is broken," Frank said. "We've come together in a nonpartisan, collaborative way to bring people together to solve the serious problems that the state has."
The pair did not qualify to participate in the debate because they did not receive 10 percent support in a qualifying poll, one of the debate rules.
Griebel, who gathered enough signatures to appear on the Nov. 6 ballot as an independent, received 4 percent support in a recent Quinnipiac poll, which surveyed 1,029 Connecticut voters from Aug. 16 to 21. But 83 percent of those surveyed said they hadn't heard enough about Griebel to form an opinion.
Griebel said the poll was conducted right after the primary, so it favored candidates who were on the primary ballot and who spent "millions" campaigning, thus raising their name value. He also indicated Wednesday that his decision not to take public financing for his campaign, and instead rely on grass-roots support, played into the low awareness surrounding his campaign.
"Taking what would've been our $6 million out of the general fund at a time when we're looking at, in this next budget, a $2.5 billion operating deficit is an irresponsible use of public money and I'd say public trust," Griebel said. "It's an indication of how Monte and I are going to run the government when we're elected."
Griebel asked his supporters to help raise awareness about his campaign. He said he and Frank "will go anywhere to talk to 2, 20 or 200 people."
On Monday, the chairman of Griebel's campaign resigned amid news he was charged with misappropriating $500,000 from the company where he worked. Asked about that Monday, Griebel said "it's unfortunate for him but the campaign is moving forward."
He added that his campaign acted quickly to put a plan together so as not to waste any time. His spokesman Chris Cooper now also is serving as his campaign manager, and Chris DuPont, who was involved in Mark Greenberg's unsuccessful run for state comptroller, is his deputy campaign manager.
At 2Wives Brick Oven on Huntington Street, Griebel and Frank stood before a television screen playing the debate, and commented on Stefanowski's and Lamont's answers, and, in some cases, directly responded to the questions being asked by the debate moderators. Their answers were streamed live on Griebel's campaign page on Facebook.
In responding to a question about the state's fiscal woes, Griebel said it's likely that aid to municipalities would continue to have to be reduced, and that he would have to "use a lot of what's in the rainy day fund." He also mentioned the need to sit down with public sector unions early on to discuss changes to their contracts, and to look at the fiscal outlook for the next biennium, when the General Assembly meets to put together a budget in February 2019.
He said he is considering eliminating the business entity tax, among other proposals, to "send a strong signal to employer community that we're serious about getting our expenses and revenue stream under control."
Griebel and Frank said they will unveil a more detailed fiscal plan for the state, including a goal of creating 200,000 net new jobs by 2028, at the Capitol on Thursday.