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Tuesday, August 14 Local

Two Republicans make the case to run for attorney general

Connecticut has not had a Republican attorney general since 1959, but Sue Hatfield and John Shaban think 2018 is the year to change that — and both are fiercely convinced they are the candidate to do it.

Hatfield, the GOP-endorsed candidate, has been a prosecutor for the Connecticut Criminal Justice Division since 2005. She previously was a public finance attorney in New York for two years and a policy assistant to Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House. She says her master’s of law degree in taxation sets her apart from her Republican challenger Shaban and the three Democrats seeking the office.

“Nobody has the large municipal finance background, which is really essential in the attorney general’s office,” said Hatfield, a Pomfret resident who is also a registered nurse.

Shaban, a partner at Whitman, Breed, Abbott and Morgan in Greenwich who hopes to beat Hatfield in the Aug. 14 primary, questioned whether Hatfield has enough civil litigation experience. Connecticut’s attorney general is the state’s chief civil legal officer but does not handle criminal matters.

“She’s got zero civil litigation experience,” said Shaban. “Of the 12 or 14 divisions that are in the attorney general’s office, my practice over the last 25 years has hit almost all of them. I’ve worked with the attorney general’s office. I’ve worked against the attorney general’s office.”

For her part, Hatfield said voters are tired of “career politicians” — a comment that could be a jab at Shaban, who was a state representative from Redding from 2011 to 2017, or at two of the Democrats running, William Tong and Paul Doyle, both of whom are in the General Assembly. (The third Democrat on the primary ballot is former federal prosecutor Chris Mattei.)

“I’ve worked just like all of the voters out there,” said Hatfield, who has held elected office only on the Plainville Planning and Zoning Commission.

Shaban’s experience as a state representative taught him about working with state government, which he said would help him as attorney general. He chaired the legislature’s Environment Committee, and said he favors more local control, instead of federal regulations, on environmental issues. His first act as attorney general would be to establish a business liaison to meet with Connecticut companies for “private, privileged conversations,” before initiating lawsuits — the current attorney general George Jepsen is too quick to litigate, Shaban said.

Also eager to be “business friendly,” if elected Hatfield said she would assign a team of lawyers to review Connecticut’s tax code and business regulations. Although state Republicans this year opposed legislation creating state net neutrality regulations after their repeal at the federal level, Hatfield said she favored such regulations.

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“I would push back on the federal government because it’s in the best interest of the people of Connecticut,” she said. “The people of Connecticut need an open internet to use.”

Hatfield has been taking her message to voters, with numerous appearances at Republican Town Committees and local events. On Saturday at the Ridgefield Sidewalk Sales, she handed out palm cards, got an impromptu putting lesson, threw a pitch at a dunk tank and even spontaneously sang “God Bless America” with a local chorale group.

Shaban accused Hatfield of avoiding debates and candidate forums where she would have to answer policy questions and challenges from him.

“She’s a no-show,” he said. “She has secreted herself from anything that approaches a microphone.”

Hatfield’s campaign fired back that she “doesn’t have time to chase around her opponent.”

“Basically, he should be on the campaign trail if he’s going to win,” said Spencer Rubin, Hatfield’s communications director. “We haven’t seen him on the campaign trail.”

Shaban, who has participated in a few candidate forums, has mostly avoided large civic events such as fairs and parades, opting to target Republicans at small gatherings and with social media.

He has also been calling donors — some of the same ones who gave to his unsuccessful 2016 Congressional campaign against U.S. Rep. Jim Himes.

All four other attorney general candidates are receiving grants from the state’s Citizens’ Election Program and have raised far more than Shaban, even though they are limited by the CEP participation to collecting contributions in increments of $100 or less.

Shaban, who does not have such constraints, had raised only $29,268 as of early July, according to the latest campaign finance reports. Hatfield, meanwhile, had raised $87,835 as of July 10, and more than $58,000 between April and July alone.

That money, plus a $406,275 grant she hopes to receive soon from the state, will allow Hatfield to roll out a statewide television commercial ahead of the primary, as well as digital ads and mailers.

Shaban is recording a radio spot this week, he said, and may send out mailers if his campaign can raise enough money.

emunson@hearstmediact.com; Twitter: @emiliemunson

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