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106th District Challenger Eva Zimmerman Hoping To Bolster Democratic Majority In Statehouse

Published: October 28, 2016 at 12:00 am

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106th District Democratic statehouse challenger Eva Zimmerman
106th District Democratic statehouse challenger Eva Zimmerman
According to details on her campaign website, 106th District Democratic challenger Eva (Bermudez) Zimmerman first got involved with direct grassroots organizing by canvassing with the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group (ConnPIRG) organizing for environmental awareness, more than 11 years ago.

But she literally has been a fixture at the Capitol since her teen years when along with two siblings, she was among the members of ten Hartford families who became plaintiffs in the Sheff vs O'Neil lawsuit.

The 1989 action, initiated by Elizabeth Horton Sheff on behalf of her fourth grade son, Milo, sought to redress the inequity between the level of education provided to students in Hartford public schools and that available to children in surrounding suburban districts.

But it was her work with ConnPIRG that fueled Ms Zimmerman's desire to be part of changing her community rather than the sidelines, her website states. Since then, it indicated that she has volunteered for community groups like CSS/CON one of the regional zoning groups in Hartford serving as treasurer, Connecticut Center for a New Economy, and Connecticut Citizen's Action Group, and more recently after relocating from Hartford to Newtown, with the Newtown Labor Day Parade and Newtown Arts Festival.

Her web bio also reflects added political experience performing labor negotiations as an 1199 Representative, and serving one term on the Newtown Legislative Council. After working as an assistor with Access Health CT, her bio states that Ms Zimmerman was named Latina Citizen of the Year by the Connecticut General Assembly for her activism navigating more than 5,000 Connecticut residents to sign up for health insurance on the exchange.

She currently represents and organizes municipal and state employees through CSEA Local 2001, and volunteers as secretary for the ​Hartbeat Ensemble, a small Hartford troupe that engages a youth summer programs board using theater to initiate conversation on issues like bullying and gun violence.

During a recent visit to The Newtown Bee, Ms Zimmerman, who is challenging two-term GOP incumbent Mitch Bolinsky, talked about several statewide concerns she plans to address if elected November 8, as well as vowing to make her first top constituent priority getting a new senior center built for Newtown's rapidly expanding senior population.

While she worked on an independent initiative against Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley when he challenged Dannel Malloy in 2010, Ms Zimmerman is distancing herself from the governor, whose current approval rating is among the lowest nationally among state governors.
"When I voted for him I had no idea how deep into privatization and these kinds of things he would be getting into," she said. "I'm not happy with him, and I distance myself from him because I don't believe in his current policies. I think he was a better candidate for Connecticut than Tom Foley at the time, but if there was a gubernatorial election tomorrow, I wouldn't vote for him."

One of the areas getting significant attention on the privatization front is the transfer of hundreds of developmental and other disabled individuals from state-run facilities to nonprofit enterprises and group homes. Ms Zimmerman said that was among the initiatives she opposes, and if elected, she would support reestablishing some level of regionalized state-run facilities to care for and support these state residents.

"The reality is, when you're paying these private providers with an expectation of savings because you're not dishing out for health benefits, or pension plans, the cost to taxpayers in the long run is still much more than you could have done in-house. Not to mention you're giving opportunities and jobs to these companies that don't care about Connecticut."

On another front, Ms Zimmerman says that seeing firsthand the transition of work from state workers at the Department of Transportation to private contractors, she is not seeing any measurable taxpayer savings or benefits.

"I'm fiscally conservative, and a pragmatist, so if you can show me at the end of the day that these measures are saving a substantial amount of money, then I will follow that step," she said. "But don't try to pull the wool over our eyes by saying you're fixing the deficit by transferring funding from one agency to another - or by doing a mass layoff because we're going to save money by cutting spending - because we're not."

Ms Zimmerman says that the next General Assembly needs to be more creative, aggressively establishing regionalization of services, particularly with the care and housing of individuals with mental health issues. She also supports a low-wage employer bill that would leverage added taxation on big box retailers, which she contends will generate "half a billion dollars."

Turning to a familiar subject - the state health care exchange created under the Affordable Care Act - Ms Zimmerman said that part of the reason why the "program is crumbling" is because the agency removed local storefront hubs where eligible state residents could receive free counseling to help them apply for health insurance.

"If you can't pull in the high number of applicants insurance companies need to participate, you're going to see them pulling out," she said. "I'd like to see a revamp. I see a lot of working families who are not getting a dime of subsidy. On the ground, [Obamacare] is not helping everyone. And the Newtown families I'm meeting are stuck in the middle. They may be earning a couple hundred thousand dollars, but they are also paying for two kids in college."

Ms Zimmerman believes state officials and insurance providers need to reach an agreement to ensure coverage options remain available. To do this, she says, the state needs to guarantee all residents who are or become eligible will continue to apply for health policies.

If elected, Ms Zimmerman pledges to work diplomatically along with other Democratic colleagues new to the general assembly, as well as Republicans, to expand seats at the table when the Democratic leadership in Hartford gathers to finalize important legislation and state budgets.

"I've been lucky enough to be an activist, but I'm not a rabble-rouser," she said. "I don't burn bridges. I'm lucky to have good relationships with [veteran] legislators, and I think I can create good relationships with newcomers as well as Republicans if we need to. I think our joint dislike of the governor is an opportunity to cultivate these relationships.

"There are people I wouldn't want to mess with, but if I'm representing Newtown there are going to be difficult decisions. And if it comes to doing what's right for Newtown, or what's right for the [Democratic] party, I'm doing this for Newtown."

Ms Zimmerman said she confronted her Republican opponent over his failure to support a bonding package that included funding for the construction of Sandy Hook School, and when asked what she would do if a bill she supported was amended to include an earmark she absolutely opposed, she said she would go to the party leadership and "start working your butt off to organize people in your favor."

"That's what you do as a legislator," she said. "You spend all the time that you need to calling everybody to convince them, and make your case that they should vote with you. If you don't agree with the add-on, you organize the troops and vote the whole bill down, or filibuster it. The right move is to organize against the implementor - it's been done time and time again by other legislators. I was there and when that vote came up, there wasn't a fight to fix it."

Ms Zimmerman said if elected, she is hoping to learn the real numbers when it comes to the projected state budget deficit as soon as possible. And once those numbers are clear, she would "get creative" crafting legislation to reform the state's tax structure while creating incentives to help attract and grow more small businesses to sustain tax revenue and create more high paying jobs.

Learn more about Ms Zimmerman by visiting evafornewtown.com

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