Election 2020: Familiar Names Will Populate November Ballot Statehouse Races
Anyone from Newtown who has been paying attention to state political races over the past six years or so will see nothing but familiar names when they peruse their ballot this November. Every single contender is either an incumbent who has already been serving Newtown constituents, or a returning challenger.
Newtown’s 106th District race will see a rematch between incumbent Republican Representative Mitch Bolinsky, and former Democratic challenger Rebekah Harriman-Stites.
In a May 20 online endorsement meeting, Newtown Republicans unanimously nominated Bolinsky for a fifth term.
Bolinsky thanked the gathering, saying, “Representing Newtown is a labor of love and the honor of my lifetime. More than ever, our post COVID-19 times require a steady, experienced hand and the expertise of a representative with my history of productivity and effectiveness working on both sides of the aisle. We’re so much stronger working together and must not allow the gridlock paralyzing our national government to distract us. As we move into recovery, let’s recognize that no two states face identical challenges. Let’s not run Connecticut following other states’ ‘cookie-cutter’ processes.
“We have to stabilize Connecticut,” he said. “I’m in touch every day with individuals, families, business owners, and folks in our community who find themselves struggling, through no fault of their own. No one asked for this pandemic and, despite it, we’re all trying to be good citizens and do the best we can to stay safe. We understand that caution is critical. However, I can’t accept that so many friends and neighbors are experiencing frustration and left wondering if help is coming at all from the state and its impenetrable agencies. Temporary resources were promised but for many, not delivered.”
Bolinsky said he has heard from “hundreds and hundreds of friends and neighbors who feel abandoned by Hartford. Some of them act surprised when I pick up the phone or reply to an e-mail, usually same day but, that’s just me. It’s what a good State Rep is all about. I’m here for them and have built the means to help them navigate dark waters. I feel blessed to have about a 98 percent success rate getting their issues resolved. I can and love to help build bridges and clear hurdles.
“Our state’s agencies have been a horrific failure,” he said. “People need to know their government is there for them, especially in a crisis like this. It’s time to clear the interference of special interests and throw away the status quo so we can take on some of the efficiencies I’ve been pushing for years. The past months have demonstrated how badly we need to remake our state agencies in an image of 21st-Century efficiency. The taxpayers funding them deserve a user-friendly experience.”
Addressing state finances, Bolinsky added, “Connecticut’s budget may be more than $1-billion in deficit for the year-ending June 30, 2020 and $2.6-billion next year. Unfortunately, I think this may not scratch the surface, as spending grows and revenues decline. We need to adjust to and weather the storm before allowing the state’s majority party to again raise taxes, something they’re already talking about. I say - ‘Not so fast!’ I’ve never voted to increase taxes and don’t plan to start now.”
Bolinsky called for balance, saying “Our first priority must be the health and safety of residents, but we are not lemmings who need to courteously match the decisions of other nearby states. We can’t take a ‘cookie-cutter’ approach to reopening. We can and must set our own bar and allow businesses that certify as safe, to reopen. Those who can’t or don’t want to don’t have to and can plan accordingly. Common sense should responsibly drive our economy. That’s what Main Street does best.”
Rep Bolinsky is an Assistant Republican House Leader and serves on the budget-writing Appropriations Committee. He advocates and legislates for children, special needs students, families, and teachers as a member of the Education Committee and is a leading voice for seniors on the Aging Committee.
Harriman-Stites was also unanimously endorsed via a virtual Democratic Town Committee meeting after being nominated by Newtown Board of Education Chairwoman, Dr Michelle Embree Ku.
“I have worked alongside Rebekah for the past six years, experiencing first-hand her steadfast leadership effecting positive change in our community,” said Ku. “I am pleased to nominate her, and though I will miss her on the Board of Ed, I know she is the voice we need to represent Newtown’s best interests in Hartford.”
The nomination was seconded by Sandy Hook resident and Democratic Town Committee member Connie Cooper.
“Newtown needs a representative who isn’t afraid to speak up, speak out, and offer innovative solutions. Rebekah has proven she will do just that — without playing party politics. She is a passionate advocate, and I can’t wait to see what she can do as our State Representative,” said Cooper.
Harriman-Stites has resided in Newtown for over 20 years, where she proudly raises her 14-year-old son, Fisher, and two beloved beagles. She currently serves on the Newtown Board of Education, chairs the Board’s Policy Committee, and has served on multiple union negotiation committees.
She is Director of Development of Ann’s Place, a Danbury non-profit which provides free support and wellness services to individuals facing cancer and their loved ones.
Accepting the endorsement, Harriman-Stites said, “I am humbled and honored to receive Newtown’s endorsement, because this campaign is not just about me. We are the sum of our parts, and now, more than ever, it is about our entire community. From our front line and essential workers, to parents juggling work and childcare, to our extremely at-risk seniors isolated from friends and family, and our resilient, small business owners deserving assistance and guidance to stay afloat. This is Newtown. All of us. Together. And I will work for every one of us in Hartford.”
Harriman-Stites holds a Social Work degree from Central Connecticut State University, and is a graduate of Leadership Greater Bridgeport, where she served as chair of the Board of Directors. She co-founded the My Sandy Hook Family Fund, successfully raising and distributing $1.5 million directly to those most impacted, and recognized as a Hero by Money Magazine for her efforts.
She previously served as president of the Middle Gate School PTA and on the founding Board of Directors of Everwonder Children’s Museum.
28th District Senate Rematch
Incumbent Republican Senator Tony Hwang is for the second time being challenged by fellow Fairfield resident and Democrat Michelle McCabe. The 28th District encompasses their hometown, along with Newtown, Easton, Weston, and Westport.
According to a release, Hwang received the unanimous and enthusiastic backing of Republicans from all the district communities as he readied a campaign for his 4th term.
“It has been the honor of my life, second only to my family, to serve the Connecticut residents of the 28th Senate district,” said Senator Hwang. “During these difficult times, I have talked to many residents throughout our district who have been impacted, heroes who have answered the call to help those in need, and many who are worried about the future of our state and great country due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will get through these difficult times by working together. We are in this crisis together and we can only overcome and succeed together.”
Former Newtown First Selectman E. Patricia Llodra nominated Senator Hwang and praised his demonstrated leadership in the General Assembly.
“Senator Hwang is someone our residents can count on during difficult times,” said Llodra. “He always puts people above politics and makes sure that our state government is providing the services and support that is needed to the communities he represents. I know I can count on Senator Hwang, and I know you can count on him to be there for all of us.”
Ryan DeWitt, a student in the Class of 2021 at Fairfield Warde High School seconded Senator Hwang’s nomination.
“Senator Hwang is a mentor, not just to me, but to many students throughout the district,” said DeWitt. “Senator Hwang takes time to visit with students and to listen to the concerns of young adults. He cares, he listens, he challenges and he is there for all of us.”
“COVID-19 has changed our world, country, state, and local communities. We need to rebuild a better future despite the daunting challenges caused by this terrible healthcare pandemic and the ensuing economic devastation,” said Hwang. “My focus in the upcoming campaign is to address and solve our constituents’ concerns and needs as your state senator. It will be a priority to work for all of you right up to election day and afterward. The challenges are monumental and difficult decisions will need to be made. That is why experience and proven leadership are essential during times of crisis. My passion for the positive powers of public service is why experience and proven leadership are critical now more than ever.”
McCabe received a similar endorsement from Democratic party leaders across the 28th District.
“At my 2020 kick off in January, I expressed the same Connecticut-focused position as I did in 2018. None of us could have predicted that months later, a pandemic would show us the degree to which our national division would threaten our very existence,” said McCabe. “The urgency with which we campaigned in 2018 now seems frighteningly prescient. It is not an overstatement that 2020 is the fight for our very lives and who we choose to lead us at all levels of government matters more than ever. The challenges that will be before all elected officials will require a strength of purpose and willingness to make unpopular but necessary decisions, ones that will test the public’s stomach for personal sacrifice like never before in our lifetimes.”
McCabe referenced the natural tension between being free and sacrificing some freedom to live in a society with others, an issue she believes has reached a dangerous boiling point amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We aren’t terribly good at navigating the divide between what’s best for ourselves, and what’s best for the common good. That’s why we outsourced the decision-making to the government. Our elected leaders have the unenviable job of weighing opposing interests and making a decision.
“At least in theory, we elect people who we trust to make the right decision, to hear all sides of an issue, to ask experts as well as constituents, to take the long view and make a decision that will allow us all to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness even if it’s not exactly as we envisioned,” she said. “We will only survive the challenge ahead if we elect people who we trust to thoughtfully and decisively lead us out of the pandemic and into what will be a very different world, and who are willing to brave the fallout of very unhappy people in the process. My opponent is not that person. I am.”
McCabe’s resume is lengthy: Director of the Center for Food Equity and Economic Development (FEED) at the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport; Sacred Heart University School of Social Work Advisory Committee member; Fairfield University Center for Social Impact Steering Committee member; Connecticut Asset Building Collaborative, Co-Chair; Bridgeport Regional Business Council, Member; Women’s Business Development Council, Regional Advisory Committee Member; Connecticut Emergency Support Functions #6, Task Team Member; Accountable Health Communities Program, Advisory Board; Connecticut Food System Alliance, Member.
Despite her professional expertise, McCabe said the most important quality she brings to the table is courage.
“I have the courage to know that I don’t know everything, to welcome all opinions especially if they challenge my own, and to steadfastly make decisions that strike the proper balance between personal freedom and the common good, even if it doesn’t please everyone,” said McCabe. “You will always know where I stand. I’ll earn your vote because of my character, and I won’t avoid talking about something that I believe is right for fear you might disagree.”
Second District, Second Chances
Voters casting ballots in western Newtown and the rest of the Second statehouse district — that encompasses parts of Bethel, Danbury, Redding — will choose between incumbent Democrat Raghib Allie-Brennan and former Second District Republican Rep Dan Carter.
Allie-Brennan was nominated and accepted the endorsement for a second term following a virtual convention. Addressing the delegates by Zoom conference call from his Bethel home, the lawmaker said, “I believe the most important thing we’ve done is bring compassion, transparency, and accessibility to this office. I’m proud to be a Democrat but I’m committed to serving all of my constituents, without regard to party.”
According to his official biography, Allie-Brennan has served as vice chair of Bethel’s Democratic Town Committee and as vice president of the HERO Project, which raises awareness and resources to combat the opioid epidemic in the Danbury area. He is a former board member of the Connecticut League of Conservation voters and Triangle Community Center.
In his first term as a state legislator, Allie-Brennan served on the Energy and Technology Committee, and was vice chair of the General Law, Public Safety, and Security Committees.
Allie-Brennan graduated from Marymount Manhattan College in 2013 with a BA in International Relations and a double minor in history and communications. He enters the election season already qualified for the Connecticut Citizens Election Program, which is public campaign financing.
Carter received the Republican Party nomination for a new term to Connecticut’s 2nd Assembly District, which he was first elected to in 2010. He subsequently was reelected twice for a total of three two-year terms.
“I am honored to receive the support of local Republicans in my efforts to bring common sense leadership to Hartford. As the impact of the COVID-19 crisis grows, we need experienced leadership to safeguard citizens, help businesses protect their employees, and manage the economic fallout across the state,” said Carter. “We must also work together to ensure we do not repeat the same mistakes made after the economic crisis in 2008 that held Connecticut back from a full recovery.”
Carter, a former Air Force pilot and Gulf War veteran, worked in healthcare following his Air Force career. He currently provides consulting services in the aviation and travel industries. While in the legislature, Carter often led the fight against overspending, tax increases, and initiatives that inhibit job growth.
He also used his experience in healthcare to work with providers and patients across the state to improve healthcare and patient safety. He has been instrumental in crafting legislation to reduce opioid abuse, address new biologic products, and support the palliative use of medical cannabis.
“Above all, we must make sound decisions and ensure that the “new normal” doesn’t become a catchphrase excuse to implement policies that have proven to be disastrous for Connecticut in the past,” said Carter.
During his earlier terms in the legislature, Carter served on the General Law, Education, Finance Revenue & Bonding, Public Health, Energy & Technology, and Banking committees. He was also a member of Aviation and Bioscience caucuses.
Sredzinski Unopposed - Again
In the case of Republican State Rep JP Sredzinski, whose 112th District encompasses neighborhoods across southern Newtown, the lawmaker appears to be heading into yet another election cycle unopposed.
On Tuesday, May 19, JP Sredzinski received the unanimous Republican nomination to run for re-election for a fourth term — he also represents all of neighboring Monroe.
The incumbent said it has been an honor serving the people of Monroe and Newtown as their voice in Hartford.
“I am thrilled to receive the Republican nomination to seek a fourth term,” he said in a statement. “We face many challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic — on the local, state, national, and global level. The next few years will require steady, consistent leadership and I look forward to embracing those challenges and fighting for what is best for our communities and our state.”
Sredzinski was elected to his third term in November 2018 and is currently a member of the Legislature’s Human Services and Higher Education & Employment Advancement Committees. He also serves as Ranking Member of the Public Safety Committee.
Sredzinski was appointed to the leadership team in 2019 when he was named a House Republican Whip. In 2016, he was honored with an EMS Legislator of the Year Award.
In both 2016, 2017, and 2019, he was also named the Police Chiefs Association Legislator of the Year. Sredzinski was on the Monroe Town Council from 2005 to 2014, serving as chairman from 2013 to 2014.
He has also been chairman of the Monroe Police Department Building Renovations Committee, Secretary of the Town Council Finance, Education, Health and Public Safety Committee, an appointed Member of the Connecticut Emergency Medical Services Advisory Board and is currently a Justice of the Peace. He is a 17-year Monroe resident and holds a BA and MPA from the University of Connecticut.
Sredzinski currently works as the Public Safety Dispatch Supervisor for the Town of Stratford.
Look to The Newtown Bee and newtownbee.com for continued coverage of local and state election matters ahead of November balloting.