VOTERS WILL SEE CHANGE, REGARDLESS OF WHO WINS
by Sharon Rondeau
(Oct. 28, 2014) — On October 15, a debate was sponsored by the Greater Hartford, CT League of Women Voters among three candidates for Connecticut’s 52nd District for the House of Representatives.
The seat became available after long-time incumbent Penny Bacchiochi ran for lieutenant governor, coming in a close second in the primary to Heather Somers, who will appear on the state ballot with gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley.
The 52nd District race was covered by the Journal Inquirer located in Manchester, CT, on Monday.
There are 151 members of the state House of Representatives, which is the lower chamber of the Connecticut General Assembly, with each representing approximately 22,600 constituents.
Moderator Deb Polun anwered The Post & Email’s questions prior to the debate following an interview with LaCasse. Pinney and Vail did not respond to The Post & Email’s respective requests for an interview.
The district includes the towns of Stafford and Somers in the north-central region of the state.
Pinney served as First Selectman for three two-year terms in Somers and operates a family farm. He also served on the Somers Zoning Commission, the School Board and currently, the Somers Housing Authority, which operates a subsidized apartment complex named Woodcrest, to which LaCasse referred at 43:22 as “a Jewish ghetto” because of its prohibition on residents’ smoking in their cars.
“Second-hand smoke is a real issue,” Pinney responded.
Vail’s resume includes no political experience, work experience as a corrections officer and, more recently, as an insurance agent.
LaCasse’s background includes extensive volunteer work in the community, including with the Catholic Daughters and General Federated Women’s Club and Friend of the Rotary Club and Northern Connecticut Land Trust.
The first question centering on Connecticut’s projected Fiscal Year 2016 $1.2B deficit was directed to Pinney by lottery draw. The question asked Pinney whether or not he would cut certain state-funded programs in order to reduce the deficit. Pinney responded that he would not raise taxes and would consider a “possible” reduction in expenditures at the University of Connecticut. He said he favored a constitutional amendment mandating a balanced budget, although the audio was not clear while he was speaking.
The question was then directed to LaCasse, who stood up to respond and said that she would “reduce burdensome licensing and regulatory requirements for business, roll back all the 2011 tax increases, and eliminate nuisance taxes and fees that cost more to collect than we bring in.” LaCasse also wants to “streamline and privatize social services.”
In response to the same question, Vail said that “Connecticut is listed last or next-to-last in most economic categories.” He cited statistics showing that “$.11 out of every tax dollar goes to pay back borrowing.” “The problem isn’t income; we spend too much money,” Vail said, citing a need to find government waste and reduce spending.
In 2011, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a bill approving unprecedented tax increases. The former mayor of Stamford, Malloy is running for re-election next month. He is one of several Northeast governors decreeing “a public health emergency” which allows him to order that anyone suspected of having been exposed to Ebola be quarantined.
LaCasse said that Connecticut is now “the worst state in the country” in which to do business and that 300,000 people have recently relocated to other states with a lower cost of living.
Vail said that there are “not enough jobs” in Stafford and Somers to provide a boost to the local economy or that of the state. He faulted Malloy for “giving millions of taxpayer dollars to businesses to stay in Connecticut, businesses that are not functioning properly, and we’re bailing them out,” while “Mom and Pop stores are struggling to make ends meet.” He decried the many “For Sale” signs indicating that “people are leaving” the state in large numbers. He said that “new faces” are needed in Hartford to effect a change.
Polun’s question about education raised the program known as “Common Core,” which Vail “basically the government takeover of schools.”
Pinney said he does not believe that Common Core is the source of “the achievement gap,” but rather, that local school systems “need to work more effectively at identifying and addressing the needs of each and every student.”
LaCasse said that “Common Core” seeks to eliminate local school boards. She said she favors charter schools and school vouchers to bridge the “achievement gap” by allowing parents to decide where their children will attend school.
Other topics discussed during the debate included mental health and health care, “affordable housing,” crime, gun control, voter fraud, “transparency” in government, and the role and function of a state representative.
In April 2013, Malloy signed a comprehensive firearms law which reclassified many weapons as “assault” weapons, requiring registration with the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP). LaCasse said she believes in “the Second Amendment;” Vail said he would support a possible repeal of the new law; and Pinney said he believes the law is “appropriate” and does not “infringe” on law-abiding residents’ ability to defend themselves.
A constitutional amendment question will appear on all Connecticut ballots regarding the instituting of early voting and liberalization of voter registration procedures. The last constitutional amendment was passed in November 2000, eliminating the office of county sheriff in the state.
At the conclusion of the debate, which did not become contentious, the candidates shook hands.
Editor’s Note: Just after publication, The Post & Email learned that LaCasse will be a guest on the Colin McEnroe Show on WNPR from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, October 29. She also has a previously-scheduled interview with Dan Lavallo on Saturday, November 1 at 8:00 a.m. EDT.