A fellow 1-percenter suddenly has Donald Trump’s back in the governor’s race — and is giving his Republican rivals a lecture on tone.
David Stemerman is standing by language in one of his campaign mailers accusing the GOP’s endorsed candidate for governor, Mark Boughton, of “siding with the anti-Trump fringe over and over.”
The hedge fund mogul, a former Democrat who has faced criticism of being a Republican interloper, is taking Boughton to task for the Danbury mayor’s snarky commentary toward the president.
The mailer dredged up a October 2016 tweet by Boughton during the final throes of the presidential election.
“Quote at Church today: Hillary and Trump were locked into a burning house that was impossible to escape from. Who wins? - America,” Boughton’s tweet read.
Campaigning at the Fairfield train station Wednesday, Stemerman said it’s possible to oppose Trump with civility and not be part of the so-called fringe.
The political newcomer was the only one of the five Republicans vying for governor to publicly criticize Trump last month for the president’s comments that Vladimir Putin made a compelling case that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 presidential election, contradicting the findings of the U.S. intelligence community.
“I believe that there is an appropriate approach to opposing the president,” Stemerman said. “To speak disrespectfully about saying he has better things to do with his time than meet with the president, including picking lint out of his bellybutton, and to joke that having Donald Trump stuck in a burning house is a great day for America, that is disrespectful and, I think, is the kind of discourse that has brought our country in a divisive direction.”
Boughton, who jokingly told The News-Times of Danbury that he voted for his rescue dog for president in 2016, was not immediately available for comment.
But campaign spokesman Patrick O’Neil dismissed Stemerman’s narrative.
“I would simply point out that he voted for Trump,” O’Neil said of Boughton. “That’s sort of at odds with what their message is.”
The GOP primary for governor is Tuesday. Also on the ballot are former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, Westport tech entrepreneur Steve Obsitnik and former UBS Chief Financial Officer Bob Stefanowski.
Obsitnik has acknowledged that he wrote-in John McCain’s name on his ballot for president in 2016, while Stefanowski was registered as a Democrat at the time, but did not vote. Herbst voted for Trump.
In addition to Boughton, Stemerman condemned Herbst for his past rhetoric toward Trump, to whom the former Trumbull first selectman once referred to as a “volatile blowhard.”
“I’m the only one of the five Republican candidates who both voted for Donald Trump and did not criticize him for being a ‘volatile blowhard’ or say that he should be trapped in a burning house,” Stemerman said.
Herbst, stumping at the Milford train station Wednesday, said election records show that Stemerman did not vote in the 2016 Republican presidential primary.
“I believe, in his household, there were some very generous contributions to Hillary Clinton,” Herbst said, referring to $6,900 that Stemerman’s wife, Joline Stemerman, gave to Clinton during the 2007-08 election cycle.
Stemerman said he is not afraid to call out Trump.
“I believe it is important for us to always hold ourselves and our leadership to the highest standards at all times,” Stemerman said. “We need a governor who has a spine, who is independent enough to call it like he sees it.”