Nebraska governor nixes Connecticut appearance amid protests

(Kenneth Ferriera/Lincoln Journal Star via AP, File)
Published: Jun. 13, 2022 at 9:25 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, co-chairperson of the Republican Governors Association and a pro-gun rights and anti-abortion conservative, has canceled his planned appearance in Connecticut on Tuesday at a fundraising event for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski.

Liz Kurantowicz, Stefanowski’s senior advisor, said Monday that Ricketts “had a scheduling conflict” and cannot attend. The event, however, will still take place at a residence in Canton without Ricketts, she said.

A message was left seeking comment with Ricketts’ media spokesperson. An official schedule shows he has a news conference on Tuesday in Nebraska to discuss the opening of a state transportation operations center and “out-of-state travel” commitments for the rest of the week.

Ricketts’ planned appearance, first announced last month, has drawn criticism from state Democrats who labeled the Nebraska governor an “extremist” and questioned why Stefanowski would want to host a governor who said he wants his state to outlaw abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. The planned visit prompted local Democrats to organize a “Rally for Choice and Gun Safety” at a school that’s near the fundraiser.

Katie Kenny, chair of the Canton Democratic Town Committee, said Monday the group still plans to hold its rally even though Ricketts won’t be coming.

“I believe that they thought that they could play a double game, where they’re saying that they’re moderate on these issues, but simultaneously raising money off bringing someone who is basically red meat for their base and who would fire people up and get people to donate a lot to Stefanowski,” she said. “And when they got caught, they backed out.”

Asked whether the planned protest had anything to do with Rickett’s cancellation, Kurantowicz repeated her earlier, brief statement about the governor having a scheduling conflict.

As a Republican in Connecticut, a state more politically liberal, Stefanowski has taken nuanced positions on some hot-button social issues. For example, on abortion, Stefanowski said last month he would not attempt to change existing Connecticut law — the state codified Roe in state law in 1990 — but thought the state “should consider” legislation that would impose a parental notification requirement for minors under age 16, except in cases of rape or incest.

Endorsed by the National Rifle Association in 2018 when he last ran for governor, Stefanowski this month said he’s “committed to enforce the existing Connecticut gun laws, they’re strongest in the nation.” But he noted, “I don’t think we should be talking about a lot of changes right now until we enforce what we have.”

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