Republican Laura Dancho, a Stratford councilman, is entering the state arena to challenge incumbent state Rep. Philip Young, a Democrat, for the 120th District seat.
A longtime Stratford resident, Dancho has represented the town’s tenth district since 2017 and served as the PTA treasurer for Stratford Academy. She is the current chair of the Ordinance and Board of Education Liaison committees.
In an interview with CT Examiner, Dancho emphasized the importance of affordability and public safety. She said she is best suited to represent District 120 in Hartford because she is a moderate Republican and practical thinker. She is a staunch proponent of local control.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
CT Ex: What are the main points of your platform? What are your key goals?
DANCHO: My key goals are affordability, which is probably the highest, and then public safety. I am a big supporter of our police departments. Local control is another thing that I am interested in as far as keeping decisions involving our town with our town and not at the state level.
CT Ex: Where do you see yourself in today’s Republican party?
DANCHO: I’m a very moderate Republican. Connecticut is a very blue state, so to actually win an election — in Stratford in particular — it’s more about your personality, your likability, your common sense factor over political party ideals and platforms. I consider myself to be a very practical thinker, and I like to work effectively and efficiently. And I feel that is more of a Republican quality.
CT Ex: What are your qualifications? What brought you to politics?
DANCHO: I found myself in a situation where I was able to accommodate the extra work. I was asked to run for town council in 2017, and I took up the challenge and won that election. I’ve enjoyed my time working with Mayor Laura Hoydick and I found myself working with a great group of people. We worked very well together as a team and it was a pleasure to be around this group of people. I found that I enjoyed giving back to my town. I enjoyed spending time thinking about our local issues and being able to make some positive changes to our town.
CT Ex: What sets you apart from your opponent?
DANCHO: I have been a lifelong Stratford resident, and I’ve volunteered a lot in our town. I grew up here, my husband has grown up here and our children grew up here. What sets me apart is I think people know who I am and who we are as a family. Our family has contributed a lot to the town. We’re aware of a lot of local issues that are important to us, as a family and as individuals. I feel that because we are aware of our town that I am better qualified to represent Stratford and its residents.
CT Ex: The legislature recently approved up to $75 million in tax breaks for Sikorsky if they win two contracts with the U.S. Army. Your opponent, Phlip Young, voted in favor. Would you have done the same? What could this mean for District 120?
DANCHO: Sikorsky is very important to our town. I don’t want to speak on something that I don’t know the details of, but I’m going to say that I would have voted in favor of that.
CT Ex: What should the state’s role be in providing affordability for Connecticut residents? Is there a state level response on inflation for CT residents?
DANCHO: I believe that the best way to keep our state affordable is to give everyone the same leverage. And that would mean overall tax cuts on food, on gas, on diesel and fuel. That helps everyone, no matter what your economic status is. It affects everyone in the same way. We definitely need to cut taxes. We have a $3 billion surplus, and to me, that means we’re overtaxed.
CT Ex: What do you see as the state’s role in providing housing?
DANCHO: I’m a proponent of local controls. I think that affordable housing should just be left up to the individual municipalities. Our town has a plan of conservation and development. We’re in the process of redoing that right now – I believe it’s done every 10 years. We know our demographics best and can make the best decisions to make various housing options available to everyone, from Millennials all the way up to senior citizens who might want to downsize. I believe that there’s already a lot of really great options in our town, and we’re always open to creating new opportunities for housing. I would prefer it only at the local level.
CT Ex: Are you satisfied with the state’s balancing of energy goals with the cost of electricity and gasoline?
DANCHO: I don’t know if I would be able to answer that question.
CT Ex: Is the police accountability legislation effective? Are modifications that need to be made?
DANCHO: Yes, there’s definitely modifications that need to be made. I think we need our police officers to be able to do their job, and I believe that training to come up with de-escalation strategies should be enhanced.
CT Ex: What are your key goals and priorities for improving the educational outcomes for Connecticut students?
DANCHO: Stratford is an alliance district, and we now have that money to work with for the next five years. I know that our Board of Education is coming up with a Strategic Operating Plan to utilize some of those funds and come up with strategies to effectively increase and monitor the progress of our students, particularly since the pandemic, as a way to help them bounce back from that lapse that they had for the two years.
Our town gets the Education Cost Sharing funds from the state, but I think special education is just such an issue right now. What I would do differently would be to increase the funding so that our schools can have the programs, the staff and the curriculum necessary to improve our schools. But in many aspects, I think our schools are already great.
CT Ex: What are key priorities for improving health care for Connecticut residents?
DANCHO: That’s another topic I would have to look into further.
CT Ex: Let’s discuss state marijuana legislation. Is the bill as it’s written adequate?
DANCHO: I don’t really have a formal opinion on that right now as I would have to totally read the bill, but I don’t agree with its legalization.
CT Ex: What would you like to tell the voters in District 120?
DANCHO: Young is going to be at an advantage because he’s already sitting up there on the stage and he’s like looking at these topics every day. I think what people should know about me is that I like to look at a topic and come up with a positive change, a common sense solution. I feel that I can work well with both sides of the aisle because I’m not an extreme, far right Republican.
I would always be an advocate for the people to find the best fiscal path. Over my time in Stratford for the past five years, our goal has been to cut the mill rate, which we’ve been able to do. The cut has been minimal, but every little bit helps. I was very focused on that goal for our citizens.
I’m also an environmentalist. I love Stratford for what it is and the amenities we have. And I would like to make sure that we maintain the level of quality of life we have for our residents here, whether that be our beaches, police force or our educational system. I just want to help our residents feel safe. We need to have control over what happens in our town and preserve our assets.