She may be a lifelong Republican devoted to simplifying government, but newly-announced Secretary of the State candidate and legislator Terrie Wood has no doubts about the integrity of the 2020 presidential election that many in her party believe was a fraud and that still divides the nation.
The Secretary of the State’s major function is overseeing and administering state elections, working in concert with town clerks across the state to ensure the contests are fair and impartial.
“I just don’t see that the election was stolen,” Wood, a 7-term State Representative for Norwalk and her hometown of Darien, said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Were there isolated cases of voter fraud? Of course, and we want to minimize those. But was there a mass stealing of ballots or mass fraud? No, I don’t believe there was. And I think we have to move on to that.”
Wood believes there is also no significant issue with fraud in state elections, mainly due to the diligence of town clerks and other local voting officials, and she backs early-voting initiatives that will be debated in the current legislative session.
“I want to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat,” she said, adding that she did not vote for former President Trump in 2016 or 2020.
But she disagrees with outgoing Secretary of the State and Democrat Denise Merrill’s decision in 2020 to send mail-in absentee ballot applications to every registered voter in Connecticut as a way to encourage voting during the pandemic.
“I think people are fully capable of accessing ballots on their own,” she said, adding that she believes there was “40 or 50” cases of ballots that were sent to people who had either died or no longer lived at the address to where the ballot was sent. “We are a country founded on initiative and self-determination. And I don’t know why we have to mail a ballot to somebody. Get one yourself or go to town hall and vote.”
Wood has joined a field of a half-dozen Democrats and two other Republicans who have declared or expressed interest in the job that became open when Merrill decided not to run after 12 years in office.
She describes herself as a political moderate with experience in advertising and owning a photo portrait studio that she believes will be helpful in the office’s role in registering new businesses and disseminating that information to the public and the business, banking and legal communities.
Simplifying the business-registration and fee system and updating technology in that area would be on her agenda, she said, as well as replacing the paper-and-pen voter tracking system used at nearly all polling places with a digital one.
Wood is the House Republican Policy Chair, and sits on the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee, the Human Services Committee and the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee.
So why is she giving up her legislative career to run for Secretary of the State?
“I see it as a very important job with all the controversy around elections these days,” she said. “I thought that I would be a good fit because I love a challenge and I love policy and inspiring people to vote. I grew up in Ohio and my parents were very proud of this country and always voted. And I don’t know that I’ve ever missed voting in an election.”
Wood, a mother of three, acknowledges that it will be a challenge for her or any of the other candidates to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack.
But she believes her message of a policy-driven, practical, “bottom-up” government will resonate with voters who may view government as bloated and unresponsive to the needs of average working people.
“Government should be simple and it should be for the people, by the people,” she said. And we’re getting away from that in a way. I don’t think that’s good. We don’t need government to do for us what we can do for ourselves. And I believe my common-sense record and approach will stand out.”