Steve Obsitnik: Westport’s Gubernatorial Candidate

Here are 2 of Westport’s best-kept secrets:

  • There’s a primary election for governor on August 14.
  • And there’s a Westporter on the ballot.

Steve Obsitnik is that candidate. A Connecticut native, Naval Academy graduate, entrepreneur and CEO, he got enough votes at the state Republican convention to battle the party’s endorsed candidate, Danbury mayor Mark Boughton.

Obsitnik’s name might be tough to remember (and spell), but he’s familiar to local residents. He was president of the Westport Weston YMCA, served on the Republican Town Committee, is involved with the Saugatuck Rowing Club — and in 2012 he ran his first political campaign, against incumbent Congressman Jim Himes.

Obsitnik’s RV — covered with signatures and words of encouragement — is familiar around town too. The other day it was parked in the Imperial Avenue lot. The candidate pulled out 2 lawn chairs, invited me to sit down, and chatted about himself and his campaign.

Among the signatures on Steve Obsitnik’s RV: Ned Lamont, the Democratic Party-endorsed candidate for governor.

He’s a Stamford High School graduate and soccer player who still has nightmares of Mike Clifford leading Staples to an 8-0 drubbing. Obsitnik was recruited by top schools, and won an appointment to Annapolis. Vision issues limited his collegiate career, so he concentrated on engineering (and graduated with honors).

He spent 5 years as a nuclear submarine officer, earning 8 medals for distinguished service. He served in Groton and South Carolina, and the Mediterranean during the first Gulf War. He also chased Russian subs under the North Pole.

His next stop was Wharton, for an MBA. On his first day of classes he met Suzy Tager, a 1986 Staples graduate. “We walked for hours through Philadelphia,” Obsitnik says. “We’ve been walking together ever since.”

She got a job with Bain Capital (and now heads their retail consumer products practice). He joined the Stanford Research Institute, helping create technology for the government.

Steve Obsitnik, his wife and daughters.

Moving on to Sarnoff Labs and Qinetiq, Obsitnik helped create products like video on demand, artificial intelligence — and Siri.

In 2005 — after 4 years in Minnesota — he and his wife felt it was time to “come  home.” They moved in with her parents on Imperial Avenue. When he started Quintel, which manufactures smart antennas, he realized that despite all Connecticut offered, it lacked the ecosystem to develop and sustain companies like his.

In 2011, after a 2-day trip to India, he suffered a pulmonary embolism. His 2 daughters were young. He reassessed his work-life balance, while wondering how he could put his entrepreneur and engineering skills to work to help his state.

After his Congressional defeat the next year to Himes, Obsitnik started Imagine Connecticut, a non-profit whose goal was to make this a Top 10 job-creation state within 10 years.

His travels took him to every corner of Connecticut. He listened and learned about economic, infrastructure, transportation and education concerns. Having lived in 4 state zip codes — and looking at the field of gubernatorial candidates — he threw his hat in the ring.

“For the past 40 years there’s been a lot of self-interest” in Hartford, he says — “both Republican and Democratic. We need a big vision to keep people together. That’s one of the lessons I learned from my leadership positions.”

Obsitnik’s big vision: create 300,000 jobs in 5 years.

Steve Obsitnik

A primary election is very different from the general. Republicans make up just 23% of voters statewide, Obsitnik says — and only 100,000 generally vote in primaries.

Advertising in this area — the New York market — is prohibitively expensive. So he’s organized a ground game. He’ll knock on as many doors as possible. He will follow the Mitchells model: find your customers, “hug them” and hold them.

If he wins the primary, he says, he will not change his message for the general election. He’ll continue to emphasize job creation. “I don’t want to win the battle, and lose the war.”

Obsitnik is unfazed by his party affiliation. He points to the job creation efforts of Massachusetts’ Republican Governor (and former businessman) Charlie Baker as a model.

“I’m a military veteran. I support our commander-in-chief, whether it’s Barack Obama or Donald Trump,” the Westporter says.

“I’m running for governor of the state. Trump didn’t create Connecticut’s problems, and he won’t solve them. This election isn’t about Donald Trump. It’s about housing prices, the amount of time every day I lose to my wife on the train, and jobs.”

It’s a message Steve Obsitnik will repeat all around the state, every day through August 14.

And, he hopes, all the way to November 6.

FUN FACTS: Westport State Representative Julie Belaga won a Republican primary, and ran for governor in 1986. She lost to Democratic incumbent William O’Neill. Westport Republican John Davis Lodge served as Connecticut governor from 1951 to 1955. 

26 responses to “Steve Obsitnik: Westport’s Gubernatorial Candidate

  1. Julie Cook

    >

  2. Adam Vengrow

    Great writeup, Steve is a good man!

  3. Doug Fincher

    Great note!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  4. Denise Michalowski

    This election is about Connecticut’s economic issues AND about Trumps policies. And times have changed – supporting any president out of duty when the current president is leading the country down a path of anger, hatred, racism, authoritarianism and corruption is not right. It is not supposed to be a government for corporations but a government for the people. Republican candidates need to stand up, be counted on these social issues and not simply avoid the massive shift in civility in this country by focusing solely on economics. Connecticut voters can handle a discussion about both.

  5. Denise Michalowski

    I should add- Steve is an excellent candidate – look forward to hearing more!

  6. Michael Calise

    There in no doubt. Steve is a great candidate and Connecticut needs his leadership and goals for our future!

  7. David J. Loffredo

    Leave Trump and his politics out of our Connecticut politics.

    The Democrats have dismantled and destroyed our state economy. How could we have “invented” the hedge fund industry, minted billionaires, and be on the verge of bankruptcy?

    The Republicans haven’t done much better, whether its corrupt State leaders or a sitting President who has targeted us with his “tax reform”.

    But how about we just worry about Connecticut for a change? It’s a complete mess, partisan politics haven’t gotten us anywhere in the past 30 years and they sure won’t do much for us now.

  8. Daniel Katz

    Nonsense about leaving Trump out of Conn. politics. Conn. is part of the American Republic that Trump is dismantling. ANY Republican who has not openly taken Trump to task on his unimaginable agenda, cabinet and press secretary, is not to be trusted or voted for.

  9. Jack Whittle

    I suspect those commenters here who insist on bringing Trump into this CT governor election (and cannot help but spout anti-Trump rhetoric when mentioning his name) are of the “cannot cast a vote for a Republican even if he is my friend / neighbor / a fantastic candidate / etc.” mindset – that’s fine, but I have never had any luck holding a reasoned, fact-based discussion about CT and how should address the severe crises we are facing here at home. But for the rest of you, D, R or I, I strongly suggest you consider Steve Ositnik and his message; he is a strong candidate with a clear vision to lead us out of this mess we find ourselves in.

  10. Daryl Styner, D.D.S.

    Nice to have a qualified candidate to choose from. He’s got my vote!

  11. Bart Shuldman

    Can we have a discussion about a CT democratic Governor with democratic leaders in both the CT Senate and CT House along with the Democratic State Rep in Westport——Cutting Education Funding in CT. Can we add to this discussion the reduction by these same people for funding of social programs in CT

    Let’s also add the $2 million reduction in funding for senior citizen food program in CT proposed by this same democratic Governor.

  12. Lisa Marie Alter

    Agree with Daniel Katz 100% –

    AND I will go one step further to say that I would NOT vote for another Republican IF MY LIFE DEPENDED ON IT –

    Which, frankly it does…

    All one has to do is examine the VOTING RECORDS of our current Republican representatives (Boucher, Hwang) in Hartford, one will see they are marching in lockstep with the Trump Republican Party – which has NO American’s better interests at heart, or in mind.

    As far as CT’s current fiscal problems, one only has to look back to the era of the criminal REPUBLICAN Rowland (incarcerated now – for the SECOND time), to see the start of nefarious activities which bring us to this point in time.

    The Democrats I have met all have intelligent, productive, realistic, long term solutions to very complex and nuanced issues – and are working to support opportunity for ALL of Connecticut’s residents, especially those who are being marginalized under trump-ist policies (POC, LBGTQ, immigrants, women).

    So, all the yelling, badgering, attacks and fear-mongering by certain loudmouth Rethuglican misogynists will not convince this UnAffiliated voter otherwise.

    My advice to Steve Obsitnik: start your own political party if you want to make a run of it – cuz the Republican Party – the one whose candidates I have voted in years past – is DEAD.

    Lisa Marie Alter

  13. Bart Shuldman

    More to consider when voting for Governor this fall all caused by the Democratic Governor Malloy and the democratic led legislators including Westport’s State Rep Steinberg:

    CT close to running out of borrowing capacity-just $179.736 million of debt capacity remaining.

    From the CT Office of the Treasurer report dated July 1 2018: “As of July 1 2018, the aggregate amount of net indebtedness so computed is 89.29% of the (CT) debt limit. As set forth in said section, should the aggregate of net indebtedness reach 90% of the debt limit, certain actions are required to be taken by the Governor’s Office”.

    The decision by the Governor and Treasurer of CT to assume The City of Hartford debt added hundreds of millions to CT’s debt. The City of Hartford guaranteed debt, known as Hartford Contract Assistance, has added to the State of CT Indebtedness an additional $531,560,000 in debt.

    • Lisa Marie Alter

      …says the CAMPAIGN ADVISOR for Jonathan Steinberg’s opposition (surely there must a rule regarding disclosure on this type of thing…?)

      Consider the source. 🙄🙄🙄

      Lisa Marie Alter

      • Bart Shuldman

        Just The Facts. The report is released by the State of CT Treasurer and can be found on the CT Office of Fiscal Analysis website. Happy to share the report. Just the facts.

  14. Daniel Katz

    Is MONEY the only consideration for you guys, for Christ’s sake. What about just the latest travesty of Tump’s selling out to the baby formula industry by not going along with the international “breast feeding” bill and threatening to stop trade and support for nations that sponsor the bill. Taxes are not the sins Republicans make them out to be; nor are deficits. Trump is the sin.

    • Bart Shuldman

      Daniel. I don’t like Trump. Not al all.

      But I love CT too much to see the party that is destroying our great state stay in power. I will put CT ahead of Trump and Washington. I hope many do the same as we watch our home prices fall and fall.

  15. Bart Shuldman

    More to think about when voting for the next Governor in CT this coming fall. Just the facts:

    How much more BAD NEWS will it take to get Governor Malloy, Budget Director Barnes, Senate Leader Looney, House Leader Joe Aresimowicz and the CT democrats to understand there is a REAL problem in CT. Their policies have failed!!!! The economic numbers are bad… “CT is the only state to continue losing economic activity since the end of the recession”

    The Connecticut Economic Digest, July 2018.
    What is Ailing Connecticut’s Economy? Is it a City
    Problem? Is it a Sector Problem?
    By Manisha Srivastava, CT OPM, Manisha.Srivastava@ct.gov

    Excerpts from the article…….

    “Connecticut’s economic
    recovery from the 2007-2010
    recession has lagged not only the
    country but also the region. Table 1
    compares Connecticut’s job growth
    and gross state product growth (GSP
    – a measure of goods and services
    produced within a region, utilized as
    a broad measure of economic
    activity) to regional states and the
    nation. The nation recovered jobs
    lost as a result of the recession by
    May 2014, and has since
    experienced job growth of 12.5%.
    Connecticut’s job growth since the
    recession at 4.6% is close to Maine
    (5.0%) and Vermont (5.4%), but is
    one of the few states yet to recover
    all jobs lost during the recession.
    On GSP, Connecticut is the only
    state to continue losing economic
    activity even since the end of the
    recession (-3.3%). In fact, in
    inflation-adjusted, or real GSP terms
    – Connecticut’s economy is at the
    same level it was in 2004. This
    lackluster economic growth has
    resulted in anemic revenue growth in
    the state, leading to years of budgetary constraints.”

    “Connecticut’s economic recovery is
    also lagging in terms of inflation adjusted,
    or real, gross state product.
    Massachusetts is up 14.3%, New
    York is up 8.9%, while Connecticut’s
    economy has been shrinking postrecession.”

    “Digging into the
    data by industry sector shows that
    loss of manufacturing is the largest
    cause of GSP decline. Manufacturing
    contributed $16.2 billion of the
    increase in the decade prior to the
    recession, but has since subtracted
    $18.6 billion. The loss in
    manufacturing was driven by
    chemical manufacturing, which
    helped grow Connecticut’s economy
    by $14.8 billion prior to the
    recession but lost $15.9 billion over
    the last decade. This is evidenced
    by the downsizing or departure of
    firms such as Pfizer, Bayer, and
    Bristol Myers Squibb. The Financial
    Activities sector, which includes
    finance, insurance, and real estate,
    is the next largest driver of
    Connecticut’s lost economy. Overall
    Financial Activities went from
    contributing $22.6 billion of the
    increase in the decade prior to the
    recession to removing $8.3 billion
    from Connecticut’s economy. The
    largest declining subsectors were
    insurance (-$4.4 billion) and
    securities and financial investments
    (-$2.6 billion). It is important to
    note that essentially all sectors in
    Connecticut showed slower real
    growth, or a decline in the decade
    post-recession compared to prerecession.”

  16. Lisa Marie Alter

    Whelp, it’s a GOOD THING we can all look forward to that “giant tax cut,” courtesy of the GOP…

    Oh, sh*t, that’s right ! That was really a SCAM and most Fairfield County homeowners are gonna take it on the chin when they lose the majority of their S.A.L.T. deduction to the Koch Bros.’ pay raise…

    And the fun continues with higher health insurance premiums later this year, as chump defunds Affordable Care…

    And let’s not forget those frisky GOP “Trade Wars” – with tariffs that will most likely increase the cost of goods and bring about another Recession, along with a MASSIVE DEFICIT INCREASE…
    (Even a Conservative publication supports this possibility – assuaging cries of “MSM – Fake News !” https://www.weeklystandard.com/irwin-m-stelzer/is-trumps-economy-heading-toward-recession-and-will-the-fed-step-in )…

    Yup, all brought to the good PEOPLE OF CT, by the good ol’ GOP – Party of Fiscal Respo—-

    With any luck, we can be at war with Canada AND North Korea by the end of the year…

    Hey, as they say: war is good for the economy” – right ???!!! 😳😳😳

    Just ask the GOP.

    Lisa Marie Alter

    • Bart Shuldman

      Lisa-do you call the Democratic Party in CT fiscal responsible? Really? You are better off calling them the State Worker Party as that is all they care about.

  17. Bart Shuldman

    More to consider when voting for the next Governor of CT in the fall. Just the facts about the massive problem caused by Governor Malloy and Democratic legislators in CT including Rep Steinberg. Westport I strongly suggest paying attention, these are real numbers, and a negative impaCT on our schools and property values at stake.

    Where will this money come from as CT is a constitutionally mandated balance budget state.

    Deficits-Deficits-Deficits-Deficits

    Just read a CT Office of Fiscal Analysis report dated June 21, 2018, and wanted to share “horrible” news about the future budget deficits:

    Deficits:
    FY 20 (July 1 2019-June 30 2020): $1,960.9 million deficit
    FY 21 (July 1 2020-June 30 2021): $2,500. 9 million deficit
    FY 22 (July 1 2021-June 30 2022): $3,116.7 million deficit
    FY 23 (July 1 2022-June 30 2023): $3,569.9 million deficit

    That adds up to $11.14 BILLION–thats over $11 billion. Where will the money come from to balance the budget each year?

  18. Don L. Bergmann

    I do believe that any candidate for elected office should comment on Donald Trump in a substantive way. I do not think it will hurt a Republican with most individual voters publicly to express disdain for Donald Trump. The most likely Republicans to be bothered by a disavowal of Donald Trump are those who are tied into party politics in some manner, e.g. as party leaders or as large donors who seek to use their donations to influence policy. For any candidate to ignore what I believe Donald Trump is doing to our nation reflects badly on the judgmental ability of such a candidate. If any candidate sees good in Donald Trump that should be stated as well.
    Don Bergmann

    • Bart Shuldman

      Don. Should the same go for people voting? Should people consider the record of a candidate and decide how they will vote no matter the party affiliation? Should people hold a candidate responsible for the fiscal crisis in CT and then vote not by party but by outcome and voting record?

  19. Roberta Tager

    Win or lose, this candidate is a true winner😊‼️