In the 64th district — which has elected only one Republican state Representative for a single term since 2000 — first time Republican candidate Chris DuPont says he will seek to address the “affordability crisis” in Connecticut’s Northwest corner and ensure his rural district continues to have access to healthcare services.
DuPont, who works for a consulting firm that helps businesses and manufacturers with workforce development and lowering their energy costs, and has worked on congressional campaigns, said he is running for the state House because he wants to be part of changing the direction of the state, and to advocate for the Northwest corner.
The 64th district – which includes the towns of Canaan, Cornwall, Kent, Norfolk, North Canaan, Sharon and Salisbury, and parts of Goshen and Torrington – has been reliably Democratic in the recent past, with one-term state Rep. Brian Ohler the only Republican to represent the district since 2000. But its elections have been close, with DuPont’s opponent, incumbent Democratic State Rep. Maria Horn, winning elections in 2018 and 2020 with less than 52 percent of the vote.
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DuPont spoke with CT Examiner about several key issues in this year’s election.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
CTEx: What would be your key goals in the legislature?
DuPont: First is affordability. Out here in Northwest Connecticut, gas prices, heating oil, food, everything is getting more expensive. I think we really need to look at what we can do as a state to assist our residents. We’re running a surplus and our rainy day fund is plentiful, and it’s pouring right now. We need to help the people in the state.
CTEx: What do you think about the job the state has done balancing the cost of energy with its clean energy goals?
DuPont: I understand there are clean energy goals, and I’m all for moving to a greener economy. But we can’t just flip a switch and say, “Okay, we’re green today.” I think we need to work with everybody on getting to that green energy, but we’re not there yet.
In the Northwest corner, it gets pretty cold in the winter and I’m afraid of what’s gonna happen in the winter. Are people going to be able to pay their heat? Are they going to be able to put gas in their car? It’s just a really bad situation.
I know the LIHEAP program was funded by the federal government, and that’s a good thing because it wasn’t funded to the level it was in previous years, while energy costs are more expensive than they ever have been.
The highway use tax coming up is going to increase everybody’s energy costs: oil trucks, gas trucks, food trucks, everything’s gonna get taxed. And I think that’s something the legislature should deal with. The majority party has been unwilling to go into a special session before the election, and I think that’s something that the governor and legislature needs to advocate for. We have real issues going into winter here.
CTEx: How can the state make healthcare more affordable and accessible?
DuPont: I think the government does a good job of making healthcare more affordable and accessible. I think we have to take care of the people who can’t take care of themselves.
In Northwest Connecticut, Sharon Hospital has its Certificate of Need coming up for review, and they want to eliminate maternity services and possibly the ICU. And as a former firefighter/EMT, I don’t think we should be eliminating any services. That’s something I would like to concentrate on, just making sure we have all our services in Northwest Connecticut.
CTEx: What do you think the state’s role should be in ensuring that people have access to affordable housing, and is there any policy that you think needs to be changed or implemented?
DuPont: I don’t believe the towns in the Northwest corner, really throughout the state, need mandates from Hartford. I think our towns do a good job managing themselves. I think we’re getting there. We know this is an expensive state, and we need to keep this area affordable for young people, for volunteer firefighters and EMTs. Those people need to live here, and they need to be able to afford it.
CTEx: What else should the state be doing to make life more affordable?
DuPont: The gas tax comes back in December, and that’s another issue where I think the legislature should be in a special session – whether it’s right before an election or not – to deal with it. We need to either sunset that tax or come up with some sort of compromise so we don’t drop this tax on people’s heads right after an election.
I think the gas tax should be sunset. I agree with Bob Stefanowski’s proposal to eliminate 200 taxes – a lot of them cost more to administer than they take in. And that’s the thing with the truck tax – I don’t think anybody’s really sure of how they’re going to do that yet.
CTEx: What would be your priorities for improving education in Connecticut?
DuPont: I think the regionalization of a lot of the schools up in this area is a big help, because with the affordability crisis, there’s less children in the Northwest corner. I think the towns are working together now to educate their children.
That’s another issue where I don’t think we need state mandates saying, “Oh, you have to teach this.” Let’s let our local Board of Ed decide, those people were elected by the people of their towns, and I think those are the people who should oversee education in each town.
I think a lot can be handled by the towns, and the legislature needs to support their towns. Northwest Connecticut is very different from New Haven County.
CTEx: What do you think of the police accountability law from 2020, and is there anything that needs to be changed?
DuPont: We need to bring back qualified immunity for officers. I don’t know why we’re making their jobs harder. That’s another issue where legislators should have been called into special session to address.
CTEx: What are your thoughts on marijuana legalization, and do you think there’s any changes that need to be made with how that’s implemented?
DuPONT: I think it was probably smart legislation. With all our bordering states doing it, we have to be in on that.
I think the police really need to figure out a way to detect if somebody’s stoned driving around. That’s the biggest issue I see.
CTEx: Where do you see yourself in the Republican party?
DuPONT: I’m probably more of a moderate than an extreme conservative. What drew me to the party is what they offer for people who want to work. I think the Republican Party offers a lot more ideas than the Democrats do.