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Sen. Osten throws a sharp elbow at Gov. Lamont

It's not often that you see Connecticut Democrats break ranks and sharply criticize one another, especially during an election season.

And yet there was Democratic Sen. Cathy Osten of Sprague up on the debate stage Thursday night, landing what might have been her heaviest blow of the evening — not on her Republican challenger, but rather squarely on the Democrat in the governor's mansion: Ned Lamont.

To be sure, Osten didn't hold back in her criticism of Steve Weir, the one-time police officer and owner of a disaster response service business, practically sneering at times at what seemed his pointed lack of specific knowledge about state government.

Indeed, you could almost hear Osten revving the engine on her big debate bulldozer, rolling over her opponent, backing up and rolling over again.

He often looked like a deer in her bulldozer headlights, sometimes yielding answer time and once not even answering a question. I got the sense he couldn't wait for it to all be over. She could have stayed all night.

Her defense of the dignity of a $15 an hour minimum wage, for instance, seemed statesmanlike, while his criticism of it seemed churlish.

Osten couldn't press Weir to cite one specific thing in the budget he would cut. She made the state's spending level sound miserly, noting the 1950s level of staffing that now exists and a cut of $100 million in salaries in the last decade.

But it was Osten's sharp attack on Lamont that delighted me the most.

It was refreshing to see one of the Democrats in eastern Connecticut's Democratic-leaning delegation finally take Gov. Lamont to task for his abysmal treatment of this end of the state.

No eastern Connecticut legislator, Republican or Democrat, has yet publicly criticized the governor for his shabby treatment of New London in the development of the city's harbor for offshore wind turbine assembly by Eversource and the Danish utility Ørsted.

The governor incredibly left the city officials out of talks about the development, despite a promise they would be included, and then made no provisions at all for the city to get some kind of reimbursements from the big rich utilities for the city services required for their profitable commercial business.

Apparently, the army of Eversource lobbyists who seem to run things in Hartford have the tongues of all eastern Connecticut lawmakers.

But Osten delivered a full-throated attack on Lamont for one of the other shameful snubs he has made to the region.

The senator from Sprague called the governor out for his unwillingness to work with the region's two American Indian tribes whose casinos are a mainstay of the region's economy.

Lamont was slow to let the tribes reopen their casinos after the early pandemic lockdown, a transition back to business they seem to have handled remarkably well.

But Osten took him to task for not even sitting down to meet with tribal leaders about developing a deal for sports and internet betting.

The tribes have for years provided hundreds of millions of dollars to state coffers and employ, when fully open, 12,000 people. They deserve the respect of a simple meeting with the governor.

Is it because they are American Indians or because they don't run western Connecticut hedge funds that the governor from Greenwich snubs them?

Maybe he had a bad meal at one of the casinos or someone in his family had a losing run at the slots?

In any case, I was glad to see Osten aim her big debate bulldozer at Lamont and call him out on yet another of his insults to some of the state's most challenged communities, here in eastern Connecticut.

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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