DURHAM – State Rep. John-Michael Parker, a Democrat representing Durham and Madison in state legislature, drove up the driveways of undecided voters living on Royal Oak Drive, knocked on doors and asked for support for his re-election to a second term.
After losing by just 18 votes to Republican Noreen Kokoruda in 2018, Parker won in 2020 in a rematch with 53.7 percent of the vote. In the legislature, Parker has served for the last two years on the education, public health and environmental committees.
Parker, whose opponent this year is Republican John Rasimas, told CT Examiner that it was his third pass through the neighborhood this election season. Driving around in his Subaru, Parker said he preferred to ride his bike while door knocking as it was less intrusive, greener and good exercise.
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“But earlier this summer, I was riding my bike and I was going down someone’s driveway,” Parker recalled. “I hit a pothole, and I broke my elbow.”
Parker, a native to Madison, continued to campaign in his car, and said he’d become accustomed to driving now, especially when the houses are as spread out as they are in Durham and Madison.
While some assume Madison is a beach community, Parker said, the two towns were more alike than most assume and had roughly the same amount of Democrats and Republicans.
He parked his car and knocked on the door of an 83-year-old voter named Joan.
“You look familiar,” Joan said. “I’ve seen your picture.”
With the election nearing, Joan told Parker that better school systems were at the top of her mind. She said she was concerned that easy access to technology was distracting students.
Parker said that he started his career working as a fourth-grade teacher, and was still working to engage students.
“I lead an education nonprofit that does work in schools across the state. We think about bringing artists into the classroom,” Parker said. “You’re actually engaging in your learning.”
He is the executive director of Arts for Learning Connecticut. Parker asked Joan if she had any other issues that she wanted to discuss. She told him that the rise in taxes had been weighing on her.
“On this last budget, we did pass a tax cut that’s helping out seniors, so your Social Security taxes won’t be taxed anymore,” Parker explained. “And then also annuities and IRAs getting phased in over the next few years, so hopefully you’ll feel a change on that next year.”
Before leaving, Parker handed Joan a flier with his phone number and urged her to keep in touch.
Parker told CT Examiner that he enjoyed meeting voters, and catching up with those he’d known since he was young.
“I know so many folks in town because I know their kids and I know their parents, and I’ve known them for a long time,” Parker said. “It’s really nice to kind of get that intergenerational sense.”
He said it was encouraging to see more people from his generation move back into town. Parker himself had done the same – after attending Yale, he and his wife lived in New York City for eight years before moving back to Madison in 2018.
He said he had gotten involved in politics during the 2016 national election, and felt he could make a difference in his own town.
“I didn’t really feel like I was a part of that community,” Parker said about his time in New York. “So I was like, well, if I’m going to get involved, let me go back to the people I know.”
Parker told CT Examiner that in his second term, he would help make sure that Madison and Durham stay affordable and remain healthy, thriving communities. He said he’d made great progress in the last two years through environmental, educational and addiction services bills.