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Attorney general debate heats up
Leading candidates Jepson, Dean point fingers in Grand Courtroom
Democrat George Jepson went so far as to discuss Brad Pitt’s body in Monday’s attorney general debate with Republican Martha Dean, while Dean shot back with criticism of Jepson’s tenure as Connecticut Senate Majority Leader.
In the Grand Courtroom in Quinnipiac’s School of Law, the two debated everything from the scope of the attorney general’s powers to state nullification of federal laws.
“This debate demonstrated Martha’s extremism,” Jepson told the Chronicle after the debate. “She would be more at home in Idaho than Connecticut.”
Dean denounced Jepson’s time served as state Senate Majority Leader.
“The last I checked, Connecticut is going bankrupt … and Mr. Jepson presided over the [state] Senate Democrats during the largest spending increase in the history of Connecticut,” she said.
Dean then said Jepson had voted to increase the income tax, which she promised to end if she had the opportunity.
James Brislin, a law student at Western New England College, was very impressed with the academic tone of the debate questions, which he said were focused around issues that would be discussed in law school. He thought that Dean was the clear winner of the debate, especially agreeing with her view that the attorney general should not represent private concerns.
The candidates fought over the right of states to nullify unconstitutional federal laws, which Dean has championed in her run. Dean cited several examples of New England states nullifying federal laws, including opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts and forced conscription.
“It was thought of as sort of a pyramid shape, with the federal government having a small level of authority, the states having more and the people truly having the greatest level of authority, and we’ve inverted that now,” Dean said of the Constitution.
Jepson responded that nullification was an outdated concept that “led directly and inexorably to secession” during the Civil War.
In response to Dean’s criticism of how current Attorney General Richard Blumenthal handled the challenge to Connecticut’s ban on gay marriage, Jepson accused her of challenging Blumenthal’s honesty and integrity, which brought derisive laughter from the balcony. When Dean’s closing argument went well over the time limit, loud complaints filled the room.
Jepson attempted to distance himself from Blumenthal.
“Martha ran against Dick Blumenthal in 2002 and it seems, based on the last debate and tonight’s debate, that she has been ever since,” he said.
Referring to himself in third person, he went on to say: “George Jepson is not afraid to be his own person.”
Dean responded by saying that before Blumenthal’s poll numbers fell, Jepson had attempted to run as another Blumenthal. She called Jepson, “‘Mr. Blumenthal Lite,’ without the litigation ability.”
In response to repeated assertions by Dean that she was less political than Jepson, he brought up her past run for attorney general.
“Martha trying to characterize herself as not being political is like me claiming I have a body like Brad Pitt,” Jepson said.
Dean snapped back, “Yes, I’ve gone around my party twice to run as an outsider candidate, and this year we’re going to win and we’re going to fix the state.”
In an interview with the Chronicle after the debate, Dean laughed off Jepson’s criticism that she is too extreme.
“In the primary, my opponent would say I’m some sort of liberal extremist, and now [Jepson] is saying that I’m a right-wing extremist,” she said. “I just represent mainstream, constitutional views.”
Photo credit: Charlotte Green