Republican Ryan Fazio of Greenwich is seeking his first full term as State Senator from District 36.
Fazio joined the Senate last year after winning a special election to replace Alex Kasser, a Democrat who unexpectedly resigned shortly after winning a second term.
Fazio defeated a Democrat and an independent in the special election for the historically Republican seat in District 36, which includes all of Greenwich and northern portions of Stamford and New Canaan.
Fazio, 32, holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Northwestern University and works as vice president of a small investment firm that focuses on small- and medium-sized businesses.
He is the second-youngest member of the Senate after 26-year-old Democrat Will Haskell of Westport. But Haskell decided to go to law school in New York this fall rather than seek a third term, so Fazio likely will be Connecticut’s youngest Senator if he defeats his Democratic challenger, Trevor Crow, in the November election.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
CTEx: What are the main points of your platform?
FAZIO: The first is reducing taxes and the cost of living in Connecticut. During my year in the Senate I submitted more than 20 bills to provide tax relief and streamline regulation. Connecticut is one of the most expensive states in the country, and has the second-highest taxes. People are leaving and economic growth is slowed. We need to pass smart policy reform, simplify the tax code and provide regulatory relief for small businesses and consumers.
Second is local control of zoning. I want to change or repeal the state’s 8-30g law to ensure that towns remain in control of their zoning regulations and to enable them to achieve affordable housing goals in a sustainable manner. We need to build housing but with local buy-in, and within the scope and style of towns and cities. Greenwich and New Canaan have shown positive leadership – Greenwich with the renovation of Armstrong Court and creation of an affordable housing fund, and New Canaan with the development of Canaan Parish. Stamford has a great deal of development. I’ve had constituents in Stamford reach out about the city converting the (Glenbrook) community center to affordable housing. It shouldn’t be a free-for-all in Stamford. The city has a lot of diverse neighborhoods, and that should be preserved. Not every space should be developed. All the municipalities I represent have shown creative and positive ways to develop affordable housing.
Third is public safety. We have to support local police and proactive policing to stop the shootings and car thefts that are on the rise in Connecticut. Anti-policing measures led by progressives and the 2020 police reform bill had significantly negative consequences for all people, especially people in poorer neighborhoods. We need better criminal justice policies and we need to untie the hands of police.
CTEx: Where do you see yourself in today’s Republican Party?
FAZIO: I want to be a leader in an effort to reform state government. I’m exactly where I want to be, and I feel privileged to serve. That’s why I wasted no time in trying to go on the record with policy proposals that will make our state more prosperous and safe. I want to contribute to good government and formulate policy that makes people’s lives better.
CTEx: Describe your background; what are your qualifications?
FAZIO: I was born in Norwalk and lived in Stamford for three years when I was a boy, but I have lived in Greenwich for most of my life. I love and know our communities. I have been an active volunteer, delivering meals to homebound elderly, working in schools, serving in local government. My background in business is mostly in renewable energy, so I understand the economics of delivering affordable energy.
In my first year I tried to be effective and collaborative. I wrote a bill that I submitted with [Republican] Sen. Heather Somers that was passed into law. It allows researchers from UConn to look into policies used in dozens of middle schools and high schools statewide to understand the root causes of mental health problems.
CTEx: What brought you to politics?
FAZIO: My grandmother was always teaching me about our presidents and the wars we fought to preserve our country. She installed in me a sense of patriotism and gratitude for living in this country. I love this country and its history and its system of government. It allows any of us to engage in the political process. I feel a deep connection to this area, so a desire to protect my community also motivated me.
CTEx: What sets you apart from your opponent?
FAZIO: From what I can tell, she is very far left, indicating she will give support to the leaders of the Democratic Party in the State Senate, who are also very far left. That will make it more difficult for police to protect communities and to change the 8-30g law on affordable housing.
CTEx: What are your accomplishments as State Senator?
FAZIO: I wrote and passed a bill to improve mental health for adolescents in schools. I co-sponsored a new law to reduce the cost of clean energy. I worked across the aisle as a ranking member of the Aging Committee to protect the interests of seniors and to extend the statute of limitations for people who commit crimes against the elderly.
CTEx: What should the state’s role be in providing affordability for Connecticut residents; is there a state-level response on inflation?
FAZIO: The state absolutely needs to lead and change direction. Connecticut is unaffordable and we have seen our economy suffer because of the leadership failures of our state government. Connecticut is a great state that should have no trouble prospering, but it hasn’t. We haven’t even recovered from the 2008 recession or the 2020 recession, and that’s not normal. In almost every other state, that has not been the case. Because of high taxation, centralization and regulation, we have not recovered as well as other states. We have to support small businesses, cut the income tax, and create fertile ground for economic growth.
CTEx: What do you see as the state’s role in providing housing?
FAZIO: The state has a role in providing a social safety net for people who are down on their luck, for the elderly, the disabled and others. That includes housing. The federal government spends enormous amounts of money on housing subsidies, and municipalities play a role. Many are working hard to improve some form of public housing. The state should provide income for populations that absolutely need it, but job creation and a robust private-sector economy are essential.
CTEx: Are you satisfied with the state’s balancing of energy goals with the costs of electricity and gasoline – why or why not, and what would you do differently?
FAZIO: The state is absolutely failing in providing a reliable, efficient and affordable energy portfolio for middle-class families. You hear constant complaints that energy prices are too high. Connecticut has one of the least affordable energy grids in the country. The [Public Utilities Regulatory Authority] needs to be given more power. Right now it’s subordinate to [the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection]. It should be a stand-alone body with proper powers to protect consumers, and report directly to the governor. We need more transparency about energy bills. PURA has estimated that up to 20 percent of our monthly electric bills are due to state regulations. That has to be changed.
CTEx: Is the police accountability legislation effective? Are there modifications that need to be made?
FAZIO: It was a historic failure. The three greatest sins of the police accountability bill of 2020 were the overly restrictive use-of-force policy, qualified immunity for police officers, and restrictions on proactive policing policies like consent searches. It tied the hands of police and imposed new risks on them, making it more difficult to protect the public and galvanizing criminals across the state. The homicide rate in Connecticut increased higher than it did in the rest of the country, which is shocking because Connecticut, historically, is a safe place. We expect to have the full FBI data for 2021 in two weeks, but it looks like it will show that the homicide rates in Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford increased by more than 30 percent. In most cities in the U.S. it will be less than 10 percent. It’s more evidence of the failure of the police accountability bill.
CTEx: Education: what are your key goals and priorities for improving the educational outcomes for Connecticut students?
FAZIO: This is an issue of top priority, especially with the decline in outcomes during COVID. But even before COVID, test scores declined from 2009 to 2019. Connecticut can do far better, since we spend the second-highest amount on schools in the U.S. We have fantastic success stories in our district – Stamford Charter School for Excellence and Western Middle School in Greenwich — but no one in state government is asking what they are doing. In the last eight years Western Middle School used high standards, a rigorous curriculum, data-driven operations, and constant feedback from teachers and students. The successful schools have this figured out. The fact that we can’t deliver for kids in tough neighborhoods in Connecticut is heartbreaking.
CTEx: What are key priorities for improving health care for Connecticut residents?
FAZIO: We can be a health-care hub for innovation and delivery of health care, especially because Connecticut has high levels of human capital and a health-care insurance sector that’s already here. To expand services, we have to streamline regulations. During COVID the governor wisely suspended certification of need laws and ensured reciprocity for health-care professionals who are licensed in other states. Other states that have rolled back certificate of need laws saw costs drop and services expand. Our onerous regulations make it hard to expand care. The direction has been shown; we just have to follow it.
CTEx: Marijuana: is the bill as it’s written adequate? Does it address social equity concerns and are there things that need to change in the regulatory framework?
FAZIO: I was not in the Legislature when the marijuana bill passed, so I’m not so knowledgeable but I have an opinion. It seems perverse the way it’s set up – that the definition of social equity is to give marijuana licenses to people who have a conviction or grew up in tough neighborhoods. That may not be the way to create upward mobility and prosperity and happiness in communities that need that. This is a convoluted bill, and I’m not sure it takes the right approach.
CTEx: Are there any other issues you would like to address, or a final statement?
FAZIO: Abortion should remain legal; almost every other Republican leader running for high state office this year says the same. We have to ensure high health and safety standards to build in protections for women, and improve access to contraception to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. The bottom line is that abortion should remain legal in Connecticut, and I think the leaders of both parties will ensure it happens.