Republican Chris Aniskovich is running against incumbent State Rep. Christine Goupil, a Democrat, to represent the 35th district, which includes Killingworth, Clinton and Westbrook.
Aniskovich has lived in Clinton for 18 years, and served as chair of the Clinton Town Council for the past three years. He has also held a seat on the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission. He owns Security Financial Mortgage Corp., LLC, a mortgage broker firm based in Branford with an office in Clinton. Aniskovich has also volunteered as a coach for youth sports teams.
In a recent interview with CT Examiner, Aniskovich talked about the need to make Connecticut a more affordable state to live in, particularly for young people — whether that means housing, health care, or taxes.
Aniskovich also emphasized the autonomy of towns to make decisions about what and how to teach children in the schools, whether or not to sell marijuana, and how an affordable housing plan should be implemented.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
CTEx: What are the issues that are most important to you in the upcoming election?
ANISKOVICH: Obviously affordability is a big part of what we do here in Connecticut. And that’s always been a hot topic — what we can do to make our state more affordable, jobs, inflation, taxes.
I want to be the person that can speak up, to be there for, quote-unquote “the little guy.” I want to make Connecticut an affordable place to live, not only for me and my family now, but for my kids and my grandkids. When my kids are ready to move out, I want them to stay connected. I want them to be able to live here and to comfortably live in our state.
Housing is first and foremost, and that was part of our big discussion — how do we keep the younger people here in the state? Because it’s not really affordable. How do you then get developers to develop those properties that we need them to develop that will make it affordable so that the younger people can stay here?
People go to college, they get out of college, they’ll have student loans. And the next thing you know, they want to live in a house and they want to stay here in Connecticut and it’s difficult.
CTEx: Do you think the tax cuts passed in the spring were enough, or could the legislature have done more to help Connecticut residents with affordability?
ANISKOVICH: I think the state could have done more to help the average citizen in our state. Obviously the rainy day fund is plentiful, and I think some of those taxes and some of those benefits should have been broader. There should have been a broader base of tax relief benefits to the people in our state.
The small businesses — I’m a business owner, I’m a mortgage broker. Mortgage rates go up, my business slows down tremendously. So I feel the pain just like everybody feels the pain. And I think a lot of times people may be disconnected from that.
CTEx: Do you think the state has a role to play in addressing inflation?
ANISKOVICH: They have to be open. They have to be open and honest about what is happening. A lot of times the politics gets in the way of a good conversation. And the finger pointing about what some want or may not want, I think, just has to be put to the side. At the end of the day, we should be sitting at a table and having an open and honest discussion.
CTEx: What do you see as the state’s role in providing housing?
ANISKOVICH: Every town in every municipality is different in what they have. Our struggle here in Clinton has always been that we don’t have sewers. So the density issue then pops up.
The affordable housing plan — I love the idea. I think it’s a great idea. We have our plan in place, but are we going to be able to actually act on that plan? Are we going to have the ability to find open locations in town that afford us [the ability] to do what we need to do? So that’s our struggle here.
What can the state do? Listen. We have to be open to ideas. You have to listen to whatever ideas might be out there. Can there be some housing incentives that the state provides? I mean, that’s a conversation as well, because even though they say it’s affordable housing, it’s still not cheap. Here in Clinton, when we were going through the numbers last night, we were looking at the numbers saying, ‘Wow, what’s considered affordable based upon the 80% median income is still a big number. So for people that are young and trying to get out there, it’s difficult, but I think incentives from the state — the state has to be an open partner to this.
CTEx: What are your key goals and priorities for improving education in Connecticut?
ANISKOVICH: I’m of the voice of — does government really belong involved into that? I think we have a great Board of Education here in town.
I can speak to how it’s worked here and operated here, and you have to have an open and honest conversation — dialogues between the parents, the teachers and the board of education. That’s important, and I think that’s where it belongs. When the government gets involved in that parameter of things sometimes it muddies the waters. Again, every district is different. So I think the Boards of Education are mandated under state law to deal with that.
And I think that we need to trust in those elected officials. We need to feel confident that those elected officials are going to make the best decisions for your town, and that they’ll work, openly and honestly, uh, fully transparent with the teachers and the parents. And I think everybody has a, a voice in that. And I think we should be open to listening to all of those voices.
CTEx: Do you think the state is doing a good job in balancing its green energy goals with the cost of electricity and gasoline?
ANISKOVICH: I think they put out programs that are beneficial to everybody. As gas prices go up, often, it becomes more of an issue. So if gas prices were low, then that wouldn’t be a hot-bed topic, but now it is because of what’s going on. Is there more that we can do? I’m certainly of the opinion that there is.
CTEx: What do you think of the renewable energy projects happening in the state?
ANISKOVICH: I think they’re going to be beneficial to the towns in the long run. I think as you move towards some of that cleaner energy, it is beneficial. There’s a big savings that you’d have for the town. I mean, Clinton ourselves, we have some open space where people have approached us about the solar farms.
And I think that’s important for the towns to be open in dialogue as it relates to that, because I think it would be beneficial obviously to the towns overall and it would be helpful.
CTEx: What are your key goals and priorities to improving access to and affordability of health care?
ANISKOVICH: I think those conversations would have to be held with the health industry and find out — where can we generate savings? The health industry, I think, has to come to the table and decide, what is there that we can do? Are there ways for us to make it more affordable to people? It’s hard to come up with one idea of what would fix that problem, but it definitely is something that needs to continue to evolve as we go forward.
Everything goes back to that affordability concept. You have people that want to get a job and they want to go out and work. And the younger kids, you want to be able for them to have health care. But some of them aren’t taking healthcare because it’s not affordable because they can’t afford to pay because … then ‘I can’t pay my student loan, then I have rent,’ and they’re just starting out.
It’s the same thing as you get older — how do you pay for the medication that you’re on? And the difficult thing is that you can get one cost and it says it’s $400, but yet you can find something else for $15. Well, how does that work? It’s confusing to a lot of people, especially the elderly and they don’t understand or know that there may be another option. Then they may be paying more than they should be paying. So education on behalf of the state of Connecticut to the elderly to say that, ‘Listen, there are other options. There are other ways for you to save on your medications and in your healthcare’ would be helpful. I think the state plays a big role in education about the health system.
CTEx: What do you think about the Police Accountability Law? Are there things you would like to see changed?
ANISKOVICH: The first duty of government is to protect, obviously, the citizens of our communities. I fully support the police departments and the first responders in the work that they do on a daily basis. I can speak to our town here in Clinton.
We have a great working relationship with the chief of police in our police department. When the state tries to put everything into one box, I have a difficult time with that, because not everybody’s bad, and you have a bill that you put forth that kind of makes it seem like everybody’s bad.
There are some bad apples just like in any industry, in any place, so putting that cloud of the accountability bill over their heads — I mean, I think they need to be able to freely do their job.
I think we can see what’s happened since that bill has passed, some of the struggles that we’ve had across the state, some of the things that the police officers can and can’t do. I wouldn’t have supported that accountability bill. I support our police department and the jobs that they do and the struggles that they have on a daily basis. And we need to be there to support them. And I think that that bill didn’t show that we were fully behind them.
CTEx: What are your thoughts about the legalization of marijuana? Are there things about that bill you would change?
ANISKOVICH: The thing that we did here in Clinton, and obviously most municipalities are all going through the same thing, about whether or not we were going to allow dispensaries, with the size of our town there could have been one dispensary in town.
There was a zoning regulation change that was put forth — that was denied. And then Town Council instituted an ordinance on dispensaries. We engaged the community a lot. The decision that we made here in Clinton isn’t for everybody. The decision we made here in Clinton is because people in our town had a voice.
They spoke publicly. We had a public hearing. We have an organization here in town, Partners in Community that are very active in that role of helping youth as it relates to marijuana, drinking, vaping. They do a great job. They do surveys. So they played a big part in that.
I was fully supportive of the ordinance here in town because that’s what the people in town wanted. And again, that’s our job. We need to listen to the public. We need to listen to their needs and wants. And that’s what they brought forth. We supported it as a council in a unanimous vote that we institute an ordinance that would ban dispensaries here.
Statewide, what every town does is what they would like to do. Whatever’s beneficial to them. There’s a tax benefit; if they think they can generate some revenue, then for them that may work. We just felt like the decision for this particular town was that a ban on dispensaries was the way to go.
You basically have to do what’s best for you in your community. And as a district, that’s what I would do as well — represent them and support whatever decision they made. It’s up to the towns to make that final decision.
CTEx: Where do you see yourself in the current Republican party?
ANISKOVICH: I think I’m a middle of the road individual. I think I’m a common sense thinker. I look at things logically, and I know that’s not always politically the way to look at it, but I try to look at things logically and look at the way that things make sense.
Put yourself in somebody else’s shoes, put yourself in the position of everybody else that’s out there knowing that, let’s say, they’re struggling. If you’re struggling, what can I do then to help them? I may have to put my political affiliation aside and say, I want to do what’s best for those people, and that may not be what my party may want. I think I can step out of that and be a free thinker and be able to put, again, the people of the district in the forefront and make decisions in the best interest of them.