GOP Debate Showcases Congressional Hopefuls

Three contests for national office will be defined Tuesday, August 14, as Democrats and Republicans converge on Reed Intermediate School, the site of all local balloting for this year’s primaries. The primary will also determine whether Karin Aurelia, Newtown’s incumbent Republican registrar of voters, will serve another term, or if the endorsed GOP candidate Carey Schierloh will step into the role come November.

(See separate profiles on the registrar candidates in this week’s edition)

Registrar LeReine Frampton is the sole Democratic candidate seeking reelection, and is not facing a challenger in the primary.

Voting for all four Newtown voting districts will take place in the Reed cafetorium beginning at 6 am on primary day. Polls will close for primary voting at 8 pm.

Absentee ballots are still available at the town clerk’s office, and Town Clerk Debbie Aurelia is conducting a special Saturday session for absentee voting August 11 from 9 am to noon. Unregistered individuals and those who will become 18 years old as of Election Day, November 6, can register to vote in the primary up until noon on Monday, August 13, according to Ms Frampton.

She said those individuals can also register Saturday 9 to noon during the town clerk’s absentee voting session. The registrar of voters office will hold additional special enrollment sessions Friday, August 10, from 8 am until 1 pm, and Monday, August 13, from 8 am until noon.

Unaffiliated voters who wish to register with a major party to participate in the primary must do so in person during the registrars’ special enrollment sessions Friday, August 10, from 8 am until 1 pm, and Monday, August 13, from 8 am until noon. Unaffiliated voters cannot switch to a major party during the town clerk’s Saturday session.

Democrats heading to the primary polls will be asked to choose a US Senate candidate between current Congressman Chris Murphy and former Connecticut Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz. Newtown Democrats are also being asked to endorse a Fifth District congressional candidate from among a field of hopefuls that includes State Representative and former House Speaker Chris Donovan, Dan Roberti, and Elizabeth Esty.

About 200 people got to hear from the four challengers vying to be the Republican candidate for the Fifth District congressional race during a two-hour debate at Edmond Town Hall August 2. Connecticut Senator Andrew Roraback, Lisa Wilson-Foley, Mark Greenberg. and Justin Bernier faced questions from a panel of local Republicans that included First Selectman Pat Llodra, Robert Hall and Robert Geckle, as well as Andrew Markowski, who represented the Connecticut office of the National Federation of Independent Business.

During opening remarks, Sen Roraback recounted a story about helping a small business owner who was having some challenges getting herself established, tying that to his commitment to stay constituent-focused if he wins a seat in Washington this fall. Ms Wilson-Foley talked about her experiences establishing her own medical services business, and stating that she along with many of her supporters were “fed up with the federal government.”

Mr Bernier, a military veteran, recounted his “watch story,” noting that many service members wear a watch because seconds and minutes can “mean the difference between life and death” in combat situations. He said a lot of politicians don’t wear watches, proving to him that they have no sense of urgency in their work.

Mr Greenberg stated his love for the United States, his desire to serve the people of the Fifth District, and challenged residents to get involved in the political process. He also railed against career politicians in Washington “who have elevated dysfunction to an art form.”

“I believe this country is the greatest place on earth,” Mr Greenberg said. “Do not discount what freedom can do for a society.”

Questions from the panel included asking how each challenger would change the dialogue about American capitalism if they won a seat in Congress, and how they would work to eliminate the country’s new health care law.

Mr Hall asked returning candidates Mr Greenberg and Mr Bernier, who both ran for the congressional seat in 2010, about the differences they saw in the current campaign and political landscape.

Mr Bernier replied that this year, Americans seem more hungry for real change, and appear to be more willing to support conservative candidates like himself. He believes Republicans want to break up “the Democratic monopoly in Connecticut,” and that the GOP can take back a seat in congress if they choose a candidate who will stand by the party’s core principles.

Mr Greenberg echoed that sentiment saying, “We have the capability to bring the flag home to the Fifth District.” Mr Greenberg said he feels he can win the primary in 2012, having spent the past two years since his first attempt building a strong grass roots support network.

Mr Roraback reminded the audience that he was the only candidate in the race who has won an election to office. “We have a chance to win, let’s not blow it,” Mr Roraback said.

Taking a shot at the state senator, Ms Wilson-Foley asserted that she is not a career politician, and said she believes career politicians have stopped listening to their constituents. “We need [Washington] to be an environment for creative minds,” Ms Wilson-Foley added.


Energy Policies Clarified

Questions followed regarding the candidates’ positions on gun control; what they felt was the biggest impediment to business growth in the district; if they supported a proposal to permit borrowers to default without penalty on student loan debts; and where they stood on the subject of Bush-era tax cuts in relation to the impact of such action on the current economy.

Responding to a question about the national energy policies, Mr Bernier said if he is elected he will not support any further energy taxes. Instead, Mr Bernier would support increasing energy production utilizing domestic natural gas, nuclear, and clean coal alternatives.

Mr Greenberg said he would support increasing the supply of domestic fuel sources by increasing drilling for oil and natural gas. He also noted that reducing dependence on foreign fossil fuel would have a positive financial impact on defense costs.

Ms Wilson-Foley said she supports energy policies that put Americans back to work. She also pointed to Newtown’s Curtis packaging as an example of how businesses are supplementing their own energy production through wind and other alternative means.

Mr Roraback defended his support of the regional greenhouse gas initiative, saying the program benefits hundreds of Connecticut businesses. He also stated his strong support for the Keystone gas pipeline project.

Further questioning hit on the candidates’ positions on national immigration policies; the effectiveness of self-funded political campaigns; how they would reign in entitlement programs, Medicare and Medicaid costs; as well the best lessons they learned from their experiences in the business world.

The final questions of the debate were posed by the candidates, and each was permitted to ask one of their challengers a question.

Mr Greenberg asked Sen Roraback about his support of legislation that would, in effect, raise taxes. Sen Roraback replied that he would seek to close certain corporate tax loopholes, which would result in more tax revenues from certain sectors.

Ms Wilson-Foley asked the senator to further clarify his position on proposing certain tax increases. Sen Roraback responded that if the Democrats in Washington came forward with spending cuts, he would find $1 in new taxable revenue for every $10 in spending concessions offered.

Mr Bernier asked if the senator would vote for or against legislation outlawing abortions being performed solely for the purpose of gender selection. Sen Roraback’s response elicited the only vociferous boos of the evening when he replied that Roe vs Wade was the law of the land, and he would not support legislation that would take away “the right of a woman to make that painful choice.”

Sen Roraback then asked Ms Wilson-Foley if she knew former and disgraced governor John Rowland was working as a business consultant for her husband, Brian Foley, when Rowland “pummeled” the senator on a statewide radio program. He also asked Ms Wilson-Foley to react to an ongoing grand jury investigation into the incident.

Ms Wilson-Foley responded that the entire investigation was a “political ploy” initiated by a former opponent, and that she had cooperated fully with investigators by supplying business records and other information. During her answer, an individual in the audience holding a Bernier campaign sign shouted, “Indictment.”

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