DANBURY – Republican Michelle Coelho walked up Acre Drive with Mayor Dean Esposito, her husband, children and volunteers in tow as she campaigned for the 24th District’s state Senate seat.
Between her duties as a Board of Education member and campaign events, Coelho said she tried to go knocking at least three or four times a week. After a bout of bronchitis the week prior, she was happy to walk the neighborhood.
“I felt like I was in the penalty box,” Coelho told CT Examiner. “But I’ve been trying to go out as much as possible.”
A newcomer in the Senate race, Coelho said she was campaigning for affordability, local control and the proposed public charter school. She said the voters she speaks to share similar concerns.
During her run for Board of Education, Coelho said she realized the benefits of a public charter school, especially given the explosion of ESL students in Danbury. She said funding was approved, but the city needed legislation to obtain it.
“It’s like having a car. The car is paid off, gassed up, doors are open, keys are in it, insurance is paid, and we’re not allowed to drive it,” she said. “So, for me, that’s politics. And that isn’t right.”
Coelho said she was thankful that Danbury has the Career Academy, but they could not disregard the opportunity for a charter school.
While walking the neighborhood, Coelho chatted with a man named Rafael in Spanish. He brought her into the backyard, where his family was having a party. She shook hands and introduced herself to his wife, children and grandchildren.
“Somos para ustedes,” said his wife, affirming the family’s support for Coelho.
“¿Sí? Ay, muchas gracias,” Coelho smiled.
The woman’s granddaughter, Jas, laughed, saying her grandmother has a photo of Coelho hanging inside and has been urging her to vote. The family took photos as Coelho spoke with the granddaughter about the importance of voting.
“You have to vote,” she said to Jas. “I’m not saying it has to be for me. I hope it is, but it’s important. We have a lot of Spanish speakers here and we need support.”
Coelho said that her parents fled Cuba during the Fidel Castro administration, and when she saw a similar situation unfold in Venezuela, knew she wanted to run for office.
“I’m about voice and choice,” she told CT Examiner. “Yours is just as important as mine.”
Down the street, Coelho and Esposito spoke to a young married couple, Kurt and Sarah about political polarization. Kurt said he felt the Republican Party gets buried in the media, and complained about misinformation.
“Everything’s a ridiculous label,” he said. “Disagreement means you’re a Nazi nowadays.”
Coelho said having conversations was key when it came to politics. She told him that she planned to listen to all sides, and then make decisions. He nodded along in agreement.
“It all boils down to an individual right. My son’s biracial. I’m Latina. All that set aside, it comes down to your individual right,” Coehlo said.
“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, baby,” Sarah said, laughing.
Coelho told CT Examiner that if elected, she planned to protect constitutional rights and obtain more funding for Danbury to cut down their high taxes. She said she didn’t have all the answers, but she wanted to learn.
“I’m a Republican voter, but I don’t always vote that way because I’m accountable for it,” Coelho said. “I didn’t get put here to go along and get along. I’m here to solve, resolve and serve. That’s it.”