Trump-like nickname drops in the 18th District Senate race

This composite image shows a mailer attacking Democrat Bob Statchen, recently sent to voters in the 18th Senate District, that was paid for by the Senate Republican Campaign Committee and approved by state Sen. Heather Somers.
This composite image shows a mailer attacking Democrat Bob Statchen, recently sent to voters in the 18th Senate District, that was paid for by the Senate Republican Campaign Committee and approved by state Sen. Heather Somers.

Call them unseemly, unpresidential, mean or simply childish, but Donald Trump can probably claim some political success from his use of nicknames for opponents.

It's hard, to this day, to look at Sen. Marco Rubio and not see "Little Marco," or not think "Low Energy" when you see a picture of Jeb Bush.

Maybe that's because Trump the performer is just good at both the creation and execution of political name calling. He's the best bully in the schoolyard.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Trump-like nickname that dropped recently in the state Senate race in the 18th District, "Radical Professor" for Democrat Bob Statchen of Stonington, the Connecticut National Guard lieutenant colonel and lawyer who is challenging Republican Sen. Heather Somers of Groton, seems simply preposterous.

Statchen, an Air Force veteran who flew for his country in the Middle East and Bosnia, teaches at the Coast Guard Academy, hardly a hotbed of radicalism. Connecticut voters know better.

Trump Lite won't play here, and while this nickname is indeed unseemly, unprofessional, mean and childish, it is hard to see how it shouldn't backfire. Is this how we want to conduct ourselves in Connecticut politics?

The nickname dropped recently in a color mailer paid for by the Senate Republican Campaign Committee and approved by Somers. It says in big print that Statchen "learned a lot from the school of Dan Malloy" and adds: "Eastern Connecticut can't afford Bob Statchen's radical, Malloy-inspired policies."

Then there is a creepy photo montage, using separate pictures of Statchen and the unpopular governor, placed side by side, that make it look like Malloy has his arm around Somers' opponent's shoulder. I couldn't reach Statchen, but I'm going to venture a guess that he has possibly never even met the governor.

Somers did not personally return a phone message I left asking about the nickname mailer.

Her campaign spokesperson emailed with prepared statements in which the senator doubled down on calling her opponent radical: "There is no better word to describe the fact that he wants to ban private insurance, force hospitals and care facilities to operate like the DMV and supports a myriad of other policies that would hurt Connecticut's economy than radical."

I don't know what this gobbledygook means exactly or how a hospital would run like the DMV, but I couldn't ask the senator directly.

Statchen has a lengthy section on health care on his website, in which he talks about using the resources of existing Connecticut institutions — hardly radical — to look at ways to improve health care, on the model, for instance, of Massachusetts.

"I will work on a comprehensive plan to reduce health care costs and increase accessibility," he concludes. Radical?

Fortunately for voters, the candidates will appear at 7 p.m. Oct. 17 at Fitch Senior High School in Groton in a debate sponsored by The Day. They will answer questions about policy issues and, who knows, maybe nicknames.

Tune in and watch live at theday.com or attend. It is free and open to the public. A video recording of the debate also will be available later on theday.com.

One indication that Trump-style campaigning won't fly in Connecticut is Statchen's closure on a recent campaign communication.

He signed it as the radical professor, followed by a smiley face.

:)

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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