Again and again during the campaign, Stefanowski warned that without a Republican governor people would continue to flee to states like Florida, with low taxes and balanced budgets. Now, over plates of pancakes and bacon at this landmark diner, retirees and workers alike rued Stefanowski’s loss and mulled plans to get out.
“You don’t upgrade in Connecticut, you move out,” said 52-year-old Mike Dupre, retired from ESPN in Bristol. He shared a booth with a friend planning to move to New Hampshire, where there’s no personal income tax. As for his family, “we’re a couple years from going to Florida.”
“Taxes keep going up. You don’t upgrade in this state,” Dupre said. “You move out.”
That feeling was echoed in conversations across the state this week, particularly in the 122 towns that went for Stefanowski.
“I don’t know how business is gonna be if people keep moving out of state, and I don’t think it’s gonna stop,” John Lumani, 42, said Thursday, leaning back in a vintage barber chairs at his Avon salon, Lumani’s.
While only 49.9 percent percent of voters in Avon chose Stefanowski, he beat Lamont by a 6.9-point margin. The rest went to independent Oz Griebel, who took 54,400 votes statewide.
Lumani was among the majority who went with Stefanowski. He’s already used to losing clients when corporate closures hit the Farmington Valley. More departures would be crippling, said Lumani, who grew up in Bridgeport and Southington before settling in Avon.
His town pride is squeezed onto the busy walls of his shop, between auction and estate sale finds — a team photo of local baseball players, the 1927 Avon Bruins; a poster for the Avon Old Farms School, the boys boarding school founded that same year.
“This is all I know, and I love this state,” Lumani said. “I just feel like the future looks bleak.”
Voters’ concerns varied from cost of living to the power of public unions to the depth of services available in the cities, and lack of support for rural dwellers. Many worry about the possibility of tolled roads now that voters have approved the creation of a lock box for transportation funding.
Other gambits for financial stability have failed to solve the state’s fiscal mess, some argued, citing the Connecticut Lottery and casinos. In time, critics say, the state may simply get used to spending the estimated $750 million to $1 billion in potential revenue from tolls.
And while many Stefanowski supporters hail from deeply conservative parts of Connecticut — 71.9 percent of Wolcott voters went for the former business executive, a higher share than President Donald J. Trump took two years ago — others are self-proclaimed liberals.
Patti Procopio, who owns a thrift and gift shop in Bristol, says she split her ballot, voting for Democrat Shawn Wooden for state treasurer and Stefanowski for governor. On Wednesday, she sat in the back of her store, Choices, behind the racks of vintage T-shirts and fair trade frocks and the display cases filled with figurines and jewelry.
She tried to be optimistic, holding off judgment of Lamont until she listened to his acceptance speech later. But her mind was on those who aren’t as fortunate as her, a business owner of more than a decade.
“There’s an awful lot of poor people in Connecticut,” Procopio said. In Bristol, one in 10 residents lives in poverty. So she favored a governor who vowed to cut taxes and crack down on illegal immigration, which she worries is a strain on public services.
“If the state continues to be a bleeding heart state, it’s just going to get worse and worse and worse,” she said. “But I’m just gonna wait and see what (Lamont’s) gonna do. It’s a waiting game.”
In Naugatuck, where 61 percent of voters went to Stefanowski, Sandy Lyons is long done waiting.
The certified nursing assistant, out of work for a year due to surgery, has planned to relocate her family since her husband’s company, Siemens, closed its Healthcare Diagnostics division in Brookfield in 2016. There’s another location in Delaware, where taxes are lower, she says.
“We weren’t happy with (Gov. Dannel P.) Malloy’s performance and feel he’s done a lot of damage to this state,” Lyons, 54, said. “With Lamont proposing a statewide vehicle tax on top of the municiple vehicle tax, it was just crazy.”
The move is still two years away, after her daughter graduates from college. But once in Delaware, Lyons estimates the family will save $7,000 in taxes per year.
“We’re kind of feeling like if the kids were set right now, and we had the money, and the house was set, we’d be ready to go.”