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NON-PARTISAN VOTERS COULD WIN ELECTION FOR GRASSROOTS CONSTITUTION STATE CANDIDATE
by Sharon Rondeau
(Oct. 11, 2014) — Of three candidates competing for the 52nd District seat in the Connecticut House of Representatives (pp. 6-7), the lower chamber of the Connecticut General Assembly, only one was willing to speak with The Post & Email about the upcoming 2014 election despite our physical location in the district.
On Thursday, the “petitioning,” or unaffiliated, candidate, Linda Louise Lacasse, told The Post & Email about her vision for serving the people of the district in the General Assembly despite no previous political experience.
The first item Mrs. Lacasse related was that a debate to be held on Wednesday, October 15, will not be televised at the insistence of her Republican opponent, Kurt Vail. Following her report, The Post & Email contacted Vail and Democrat contender David Pinney with respective interview requests, informing Vail that we would ask why he had reportedly objected to the televising of the debate and to taking questions directly from the attendees. Pinney had reportedly been silent on the matter.
“It was either I agreed to the terms or there would be no debate at all,” Lacasse told us. “The debate will be this coming Wednesday, October 15, at the Stafford Senior Center in Stafford, CT, at 7:00 p.m. sharp. My dismay was when my opponent expressed adamantly that he would not debate if it were televised, and he did not want any audience participation; he did not want a ‘Q&A’ at the end of the debate. I responded to the gentleman, ‘What about the elderly, what about the home-bound, what about people who can’t get out at night?’ I expressed my dismay to Deb Polun, who will be the moderator from the League of Women Voters, that this was the criterion: we would do the debate only if those two issues were not part of the program.”
The Post & Email asked Lacasse if there was any effort to exclude her from the debate as an Unaffiliated candidate, to which she responded, “Kathy Devlin, our Second Selectwoman of the Town of Somers, called me and asked if I’d be interested in a debate, and I said, ‘Absolutely; I’m very much interested.’ She said that David Pinney was interested and that she had gotten in touch with Kurt Vail and she said he would get back to her once he spoke to his adviser, who is Judge Tim Keeney. Evidently, he got his advice from Judge Tim Keeney, and Kurt said he would participate in the debate only if it were not televised and if there were no Q&A at the end of the debate from the audience.”
Keeney is running for re-election unopposed for probate court judge in the North Central Probate District. He also happens to be Pinney’s cousin.
On Friday, The Post & Email sent the following message to Vail:
Hello, I have just interviewed Linda Louise LaCasse, Unaffiliated candidate for state representative for Connecticut’s 52nd District. I operate an electronic newspaper focusing on constitutional issues and corruption in government in Stafford Springs.
I have contacted Mr. Pinney and would also like to offer you the same opportunity for an interview to promote your candidacy. One of the questions I will ask is about the issue of televising an upcoming debate on Wednesday evening, as I understand that you preferred that it not be televised for those unable to attend in person.
Thank you very much.
Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
P.O. Box 195
Stafford Springs, CT 06076
Vail responded by leaving a voice message with us inviting us to call him and an email which reads:
Hi Sharon, how are you today? All the ground rules for the debate have already been set per a meeting with all three candidates and the League of Women Voters who will be sponsoring the debate. All issues were discussed at that meeting. One of those agreements was no video. The debate is this coming Wednesday at the Stafford Senior Center at 7pm. I hope you can attend.
Hi Kurt, yes, I plan to be there. Would you be interested in doing an interview with me to talk about your platform and what you would do if elected?
Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
P.O. Box 195
Stafford Springs, CT 06076
to which we received no response.
Vail has been endorsed by outgoing Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, who unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor during the primary season, losing by a slim margin to former Groton, CT mayor and entrepreneur Heather Somers. Vail has also been endorsed by the Independent Party of Connecticut.
Vail is a former corrections officer at the state prison in Somers and served on the Stafford Board of Education. On his website, he states that “We should have all the government we need, but only the government we need.”
Pinney served as First Selectman (mayor) of Somers for three two-year terms and is currently a member of the Somers Housing Authority. He seeks support from “the state” on various fronts for the district. After sending an interview request through his campaign website, The Post & Email received an automated acknowledgement but nothing more.
Lacasse has lived in Somers for 26 years and has volunteered in a variety of capacities including Meals on Wheels, as President of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC), District 7, as a member of the American Legion and the local Rotary Club.
Lacasse met with Vail at a local restaurant to discuss the terms of the debate. “He was emphatic about that [no televising or spontaneous questions from the audience] to me privately, and then in front of Deb Polun, the moderator from the League of Women Voters (LWV) in Hartford, he made it quite clear to her. So I said, ‘Well, I guess I have no choice; I want a debate. I’m not going to not have the debate. So I guess we don’t get it televised and I guess we don’t get audience participation.’ As far as I was concerned, I was at their mercy. Having the debate is more important than not having the debate,” Lacasse told us. She added that if Pinney had taken her position against Vail, it “would have been him and me, and Kurt could have gone on his merry way.”
“If they’re like this before they’re elected, what will they be like after they’re elected?” Lacasse asked. “My question is: what do they fear? What are they afraid of? Why wouldn’t you want your potential constituents to ask you a question?”
“Do you have any idea how long the debate will last?” we asked.
“Each of us has 15 minutes. They gave us a two-page synopsis of guidelines for the 52nd Connecticut House District debate.” Reading from the guidelines, Lacasse related: “Candidates will not provide opening statements…a lottery will determine the initial question…each candidate will have a League of Women Voters timer who periodically will keep the candidate informed about how much time is left…Some questions will be prepared by the League; written questions will also be accepted from the audience, screened for appropriateness and duplication by the League, and read by the moderator…”
The rules also preclude the display of campaign materials in the hall in which the debate will take place.
Another rule is that “Candidates will be introduced by their full names after ‘Mr.’ or ‘Ms.'” Mrs. Lacasse then told us, “I requested ‘Mrs.’ I said, ‘I’m proud to be referred to as “Mrs. Lacasse,’ because I’m happily married.”
A two-minute closing statement will be required, and the debate will last one hour.
“Do you have any previous political experience?” we asked, to which Mrs. Lacasse responded:
I would say my political experience primarily is family relationships. You might not think that is a political forum, but when it comes to negotiating, compromising, communicating, agreeing on what you’re going to eat tonight…in my opinion, that’s political (laughs).
As far as my experience with parliamentary procedure and getting things done on a volunteer basis, I’m on the executive board of the American Legion; I’ve been on the executive board of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs; I’m the past president of the Somers Women’s Club; I’m the past president/director – some districts use the word “director;” some districts use the word “president;” – of District 7, which was eight clubs within the state. There were 40 clubs when I was district president/director.
I have founded a girls’ club from ages 11 to 18 called the GFWC Juniorette Earth Angels of Somers, which encompasses girls from all over; it’s not just girls from Somers. Incidentally, I have girls from Stafford, and the charter member of the club was from Stafford.
Also, I’m a Catholic Daughter. I’m the legislative chairman of the state for the Catholic Daughters. I’m a Friend of the Rotary, which is an international club for business people. I’ve been a member of the North Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce for years. I’m a businesswoman and work at home.
When it comes to being organized, thoughtful, one who starts a project and brings it to the finish line, I believe I have the experience needed.
I want to add that I’m a proud mother of four children and three grandchildren.
“What do you think you bring to the 52nd District that perhaps your opponents or anyone else might not bring?” we asked.
I believe my greatest strength is my passion and my purpose. I am very passionate about being in the trenches with people who are in need. Being a member of the American Legion Auxiliary brings me face-to-face with people who have issues when it comes to mental health, when it comes to being homeless, to having the need to keep their homes warm. When you’re in the trenches and you see the need, both in Stafford and in Somers, it’s very enlightening and yet very rewarding. I have a real passion for the veterans and for protecting our nation.
“Recently, Connecticut has been in the news for being not only one of the worst states in which to retire, but also the state with the highest gasoline other taxes. What could you do to give your constituents financial relief – if that is what they want – from these high costs and taxes?”
One of the telling realities about being a freshman in the assembly is the gift that will bring me to the finish line: being able to have a conversation. It’s what I call “ABC.” “A” is that I’m approachable and I’m available; 1-800 USLINDA is my phone number. I’m right on Main Street USA. I live in the village of Somers; I don’t live on a mountain in Somers where I’m not approachable, and my mantra is “All Aboard.”
If I’m a freshman in the assembly, I can bring people to the table to at least have a conversation about the expenditures, about the growth in state debt that has been off the Richter Scale since 1970, about the state median income that has changed dramatically, and about the state population that has people not only moving out of state because the taxes are so high, but also there’s no reason to move in to the state. We have the nation’s worst debt at $46,000 per taxpayer; we have the nation’s worst debt burden in the country. We have a shrinking surplus which has fallen by more than $461.5 million between January and April 2014. We have the worst state for retirees; the high cost of living puts Connecticut last out of all the states.
We have a big achievement gap, one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation for minority students. People are leaving the state. More people are leaving the state than are moving in. We pay the highest gas tax in the nation. We have the highest number of foreclosures. We have the second-highest pension debt. Pension costs are devouring more and more of the state budget, and we don’t even have it funded. We have the second-highest level of income inequality. High taxes and big government hurt; they don’t help. At the end of the day, we are a house of cards, a Ponzi scheme. We are continuing sky-high deficits, a projected deficit of $2.8 billion for the next budget cycle.
We have a sluggish economy. For the past two years, Connecticut’s economy has grown at only half the national rate. We have a smaller workforce. There are 50,000 fewer people in Connecticut’s labor force than in 2011. We have unhappy citizens; 49% of the state’s residents say they’d move to another state if they could. And we have an unhealthy business climate, the fifth-worst state in the nation to do business. And last but not least, the last Tax Freedom Day, residents worked until May 9th, the latest in the nation, to just pay their taxes.
I can see that you are very excited about the prospect of serving the people of the 52nd District.
I want you to know that in 2010, my husband was in Afghanistan serving on the battlefield. For the last 15 years I have devoted my life to volunteering to this community, from Meals on Wheels to my present status with the American Legion, the girls’ club, the Catholic Daughters, the General Federated Women’s Clubs, and the Rotary, everything I have done as a citizen to make Connecticut and to make Stafford and Somers a better place.
At the end of the day, three years ago, Connecticut taxpayers endured the larges tax hike in history, with 77 tax and fee increases averaging more than $1,200 per taxpayer per year. Taxes increased on more than 50 items in different categories. Income taxes went up the last year; the gas taxes were raised again; we were told that all the new money going to Hartford would stabilize the state’s finances and lead to our ultimate goal: job creation. And so three years later, after the record tax increase, what do we have to show for it? Ongoing policy failures that guarantee Connecticut’s continued presence on the list I just gave you.
Do you think that the voters with whom you’re speaking believe there is a connection with the problems Connecticut has and the way they vote?
One hundred eight people did not vote for Rep. Penny Bacchiochi [for Lt. Governor] from Stafford; 208 did not vote for Penny from Somers (CT). Heather Somers won by 716 votes; 316 were from Penny’s district. I’m not running against an incumbent; Penny had already made a decision to run for Lieutenant Governor or bust. After 12 years of her being in the assembly, her constituents didn’t want to support her to move forward.
We’ve already discussed that for the budget referendum in Stafford, there are over 7,000 registered voters and only 1,939 came out to vote. The spread was 103 people. That means that if 103 more people had voted, the referendum would have been voted down for the fifth time. You can see the apathy right in the proposed budget of the referendum. Stafford had four referendums; October 8 was the fifth, and 103 people out of the 7,398 didn’t even go out to vote.
Then it would appear that the outcome of referendums and statehouse elections would be different if just a small percentage of those who don’t vote actually did go out and vote?
It’s all about respect. If people don’t realize that their voice counts, they will become apathetic. If you’re not in the trenches, and you’re shutting voters out by not making it possible for them to ask questions, that, to me, is disenfranchisement.
I did not get the Citizens’ Election Program grant; I was not eligible because I was “Unaffiliated.” In the beginning, I made an attempt to get the signatures to be on the Republican ticket. As it turned out, I had more than enough signatures, but at least 13 of them were Democrats who switched to Republican, so those signatures did not count.
Were the changes in party affiliation not done in time?
No, they were done in time, but there’s a 90-day grace period where you cannot switch from Democrat to a Republican. There has to be a 90-day grace period. They have a rule that if you started off with the Election Program to be a Republican or a Democrat and you decide to become unaffiliated, you are not eligible to be on the grant.
I don’t know if my opponents had gotten their $32,000 grants, but if they did, they have a chunk of change to do mailings, to do advertisements, to do bigger, better signs, and so on. So when Linda Louise wins this election, it will be solely on the support of the Stafford and Somers citizens who go to the voting booth on November 4 and circle “Linda Louise” for State Rep.
Do you think people need to be less concerned with “party” and party politics and be more concerned about the person running?
I believe that this race is the perfect storm. The number of unaffiliated voters between Stafford and Somers is 5,000. The Democrat count is 5,400 voters and the Republican is 2,500. If all the unaffiliated voters were very dismayed and weren’t even going to go out and vote and heard that I am on the ticket, they could become inspired. They could say, “I now have someone to vote for.” So even if just the 5,000 unaffiliated voters in Stafford and Somers come out, I will win this election. This could be a historic event.
I’m doing this because I love Somers, and I love Stafford. I’ve gone to 5,000 homes already. The people might not have been there, but I dropped off my business cards with “1-800-USLINDA; call me.” I just ordered another 5,000 cards. It is my focus for November 4 that every single home has my card.
Have you raised money for your campaign?
At this point, we’ve raised $2,000. We’ve been having weekly pasta dinners, and our next dinners are October 10, 18, 24 and November 1. We are using the money to make signs. If you see “Linda Louise” in front of someone’s house, that means that person is supporting me.
“Is there a closing statement you’d like to make?”
“I want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to bless the constituents of Stafford and Somers. I would like to end the interview with the words of Emma Lazarus: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ Emma Lazarus was 34 years old when she wrote the poem ‘The New Colossus’ which is on the Statue of Liberty. Our nation needs to remember where it’s come from; otherwise, we’ll not know where we’re going.
“On my other business cards, I have the Preamble to the Constitution: ‘We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America,’ and that is powerful.”
This story was updated on October 14, 2014 at 9:55 p.m. EDT.