CHESHIRE — A politician can’t necessarily count on support from his or her own hometown.
Donald Trump proved this, gaining less than 10% of Manhattan’s votes in both his presidential bids. Al Gore showed it in 2000, losing Tennessee, where he and his father both served as senators. But one local man is hoping to buck such trends.
Connecticut gubernatorial candidate Rob Hotaling, a “proud Cheshire resident” heading up the Independent Party ticket, thinks he makes a strong case for Cheshire votes. Hotaling, who is also a bank vice president, tech entrepreneur, and father, is convinced that he can win voters over with his message of political moderation and economic common sense, promoting “big ideas, not big bank accounts.”
“Cheshire as a community represents what people want,” Hotaling says, listing features like “safety, a great school system, affordability, but also working for improvements in the cost of living and the cost of doing business.”
Addressing the costs of doing business in Connecticut is a central plank of the Independent Party platform. Hotaling believes reducing some of the regulatory and tax burdens in the state will greatly contribute to a healthier, more equitable economy, so his plan focuses on growing and supporting businesses of the small- and medium-sized variety, which are more likely to return investments to the local economy, producing jobs that reduce crime, poverty, relocated industries and other problems.
And as his website claims, every dollar invested in “modern manufacturing and technology business” returns $2.74 to the economy.
Other proposals, such as eliminating the automobile tax for households or property taxes for business, are sure to meet with both approval and skepticism, but the important part, per Hotaling, is offering “better ideas, which leads to better candidates.”
In Connecticut, 40% of registered voters, or around 900,000, are not aligned with either of the two major parties. Hotaling sees this as a great opportunity for his campaign.
“The unaffiliated voters determine the outcome of elections,” says Hotaling. “People are tired of the red/blue divide and what they really want are solutions.”
The Independent Party is Connecticut’s third-largest, representing what Hoatling describes as centrists, moderates, and independents. Yet the challenges of running as a third-party candidate in today’s environment are daunting, he admits. His rivals — incumbent Democrat Gov. Ned Lamont and Republican Bob Stefanowski — are established names in state politics, and each has millions of dollars in personal wealth and party funds behind him.
In August, when the Independent Party voted to endorse Hotaling’s campaign over Stefanowski’s, the Republican went to court to try and stop it. The result of a one-day hearing was that Hotaling would remain as the Independent Party’s candidate.
Stefanowski “already gets to appear on the ballot,” Hotaling points out, emphasizing a key aspect of his platform: freedom of choice. As Hotaling says, “Show me one place where less choice is better than more.”
“A viable third-party is a way not to be beholden to the partisan divide. We appeal to people who don’t want to be associated with either party,” he said. “People are frustrated with (the partisanship) and they want solutions for their problems.”
According to Hotaling, a broad consensus exists where “80 to 90% of people can agree on a given issue, but for whatever reason the 5 to 10% of people who disagree control the debate. The art of compromise has become a dirty word and we’re aiming to change that. Compromise is a way to deliver what people want.”
Hotaling was at times affiliated with both the Democratic and the Republican parties, and left both “for various reasons.” It’s not to say that he shuns traditional politics altogether.
“I’ve spoken over the years with numerous state representatives, state senators. They tell me they feel comfortable talking with me, because I’m not going to judge them. We offer a safe place for the discussion of ideas, which is usually somewhere right down the middle,” he said.
Hotaling believes voters feel the same way. “People already know where a major party candidate stands for the most part. With our campaign, we’re listening to you, considering what people have to say.”
Whatever happens on Election Day, Hotaling plans to work with former candidate and activist Monte Frank and Lamont on an initiative that he strongly believes will help reinvigorate the democratic process: ranked choice voting.
“With ranked choice, there’s no more throwing your vote away and no spoiler vote. People tend to think it’s a little confusing, but it’s really not. You can vote for the ideas, not the party, and the person with the most votes wins,” explains Hotaling.
Hotaling’s donation pool is the smallest of the three candidates for governor, but he is optimistic, reminding people that Abraham Lincoln, for one, was also a third-party candidate.
“A third party is best positioned to bring the real results people want,” says Hotaling. “You have to ask, what is the partisanship really delivering?”