Stefanowski Runs to Change ‘Reckless’ Capitol Culture, Spending

MADISON – Beyond core issues of the economy and taxes and crime, what Republican Bob Stefanowski wants to change most about state government if he’s elected Governor is what he calls a culture of privilege at the state Capitol that pervades decision-making on every level.  “I think there’s a sense of entitlement and privilege up there and a sense that they work for the government, not for the people,” Stefanowski said during an hour-long interview at his home with a view of Long Island Sound. “You see it in everything from the reckless spending to legislators drinking on the job.

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Stefanowski Announces Candidacy, Willingness to ‘Ruffle a Few Feathers’

Calling himself a political outsider who will “ruffle a few feathers,” Madison Republican Bob Stefanowski on Wednesday declared his candidacy for the Governor in a possible rematch of the race that he lost to Democrat Ned Lamont in 2018.  “People in Connecticut are not asking for a lot,” Stefanowski said in a long-expected announcement that sets up a potential rematch between the wealthy, self-funded businessmen. “They want to be safe, to trust that state government is being open and accountable, and to be able to afford to live, work, and retire here. Unfortunately, these are not the priorities of the

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Rob Simmelkjaer Makes His Case For Secretary of the State

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With Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s announcement that she will not be running for reelection next November, a slew of candidates have expressed interest in the seat.   One of those is Rob Simmelkjaer, chairman of the Connecticut Lottery’s Board of Directors and a former sports media executive. Five other Democratic candidates, State Sen. Matt Lesser of Middletown, State Rep. Josh Elliott of Hamden, State Rep. Hilda Santiago of Meriden, Maritza Bond, the director of public health for the city of New Haven, and New Haven Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr., have also formed exploratory committees. State Rep. Stephanie Thomas, D-Norwalk, formally

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Senate Republican Leader Calls Helping Lower Incomes a Priority for Next Session

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HARTFORD – State. Senator Kevin Kelly told CT Examiner that helping families battered financially by the pandemic while the state government has a historic influx of revenue will top the agenda for Senate Republicans in the upcoming legislative session. “Upper income people are doing just fine during the pandemic. But if you’re at the lower end you’re getting hammered with inflation,” said Kelly, referencing spiking prices of groceries, cars, fuel and healthcare. “These are the costs that Connecticut families can’t sustain because we’re dead last in the nation in job and income growth.”  With an avalanche of tax revenue from

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Top Senate Democrat Lays Out Agenda for Legislature in 2022

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HARTFORD – Easing the sting of the state’s property tax on residents, addressing inequities in public health and combating juvenile crime with increased intervention lead the agenda of the top Democrat in the State Senate for the legislative session that begins in February.  “There’s no other tax that is felt as acutely as the property tax and we need to find ways to address it,” Sen. Martin Looney said in an interview with CT Examiner, adding that its “regressive” current structure often means the state’s wealthiest residents pay lower effective tax rates than its lowest-income residents.  Looney, who has been

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Candelora Says Connecticut is Failing on Crime, COVID and the Economy

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HARTFORD – Connecticut’s highest-ranking Republican state representative says his party will use the upcoming legislative session to address what he calls widespread government failure on issues ranging from the economy to COVID-19 and the spike in crime being committed by youth.  House Leader Vincent Candelora lists a firmer response to a recent surge in juvenile crime as his top priority for the February-through-May session of the General Assembly, and has held public forums around the state to learn residents’ concerns. “We’re hearing from a lot of people who are afraid,” said Candelora, who represents his hometown of North Branford, as

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Carney Wins National Award for Bipartisan Leadership

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Devin Carney, R-Old Lyme, was one of two state representatives to receive a national 2021 Rising Star award on Friday from the Millennial Action Project, which works to help young leaders bridge the partisan divide.  “We’re not going to agree on everything — let’s just say that upfront — we’re not going to agree on everything. And that’s okay. But we all know these issues are out there, and we just have to work together to try to achieve [solutions to] the problems facing us,” said Carney said in his acceptance speech.  Arkansas State Rep. Jamie Scott,

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Voting Among Conn College Students Surged in the 2020 Elections

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According to a new study from the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education at Tufts University, 77 percent of eligible Connecticut College students voted in the 2020 elections, a 17 percent increase from 2016 and a rate far exceeding national voter participation rates for students or the general population.  The report found that Connecticut College students voted at a rate 11 percent higher than American college students overall, 66 percent of whom turned out in 2020, a rate practically matching the 67 percent voter participation rate of the eligible public. That rate still far exceeded the study’s findings from the

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Daryl Finizio Talks Policy, Politics in Announced Run for State Senate

Former New London Mayor Daryl Finizio is running for State Senate, challenging Deputy Republican Senate Leader Paul Formica in next November’s election. Finizio led New London from 2011 to 2015, and also works as an attorney.  Formica was first elected to the State Senate in 2014 with 56 percent of the vote. He won reelection handily in 2016 with 60 percent of the vote against Democrat Ryan Henowitz, and beat off challenges from Democrat Martha Marx in his next two races, though by smaller margins: Formica won with 52 percent of the vote in 2018 and 50.6 percent in 2020.  

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Takeaways from Tuesday’s Election

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Reflecting on the results of Tuesday’s municipal elections, political leaders, operatives and observers around Connecticut reported better-than-expected results for Republicans, with bright spots for Democrats in the high-profile Guilford Board of Education race and other pockets of the state.  Republican Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, whose district includes North Branford and Guilford, said Republicans’ election performance should be a wake-up call for Democrats looking forward to next fall’s races.  “Municipalities have more money than they know what to do with from the American Rescue Plan, so there shouldn’t have been a lot of reason to throw out incumbents,” Candelora said. “Still,

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Democratic Party Chair Nancy DiNardo Comments on Tuesday’s Election

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In a call, Connecticut Democratic Party Chair Nancy DiNardo comments to CT Examiner on Tuesday’s municipal elections. There were some disappointments, but there were also some wins that we were very excited about. We did flip some towns that were Republican to Democrat, and we did flip some boards and hold onto some boards in Republican-leaning towns. In many of the open seats, what happened is that the same party maintained power. For example, in Danbury, Republicans controlled the mayor’s seat, and Republicans won again. In Stamford, Democrats controlled the mayor’s seat, and Democrats won again. One of the things

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Elgin Offers Third Way in Westport Election

Independent candidate TJ Elgin is running for First Selectman of Westport for a second time, facing off against Democratic State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg and Republican Jennifer Tooker, who currently serves as selectwoman, for the open seat.  Jim Marpe, the incumbent, is not seeking reelection. Marpe, a Republican, most recently won reelection in 2017 with 50 percent of the vote, compared to his Democratic opponent’s 45 percent and Elgin’s 0.3 percent.  The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Elgin about his campaign and priorities if elected to the seat. This interview has been edited for clarity. What inspired you to run for First

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Advocacy Group Taps Ruben Rodriguez to Push for Hispanic Votes in Connecticut

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The Republican National Hispanic Assembly is launching a new state chapter in Connecticut.  The advocacy organization, which already has chapters in 19 states and in Puerto Rico, asked Waterbury Republican Ruben Rodriguez to lead its statewide effort in Connecticut. Rodriguez previously ran for the seat of the fifth Congressional district and for the Connecticut state legislature.  The assembly’s national treasurer, Santiago Avila said he reached out to Rodriguez about expanding into Connecticut because he saw potential to be more aggressive about courting the Hispanic vote in the state.  “Connecticut has a really big Hispanic base, but Republicans don’t pursue them,”

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Mike Madru Jumps into Ellington Race, Offers a Case for First Selectman

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Mike Madru is challenging Ellington First Selectwoman Lori Spielman. Madru entered the race just a few weeks ago after the original Democratic nominee, Charlotte Ward, stepped down due to what she described as a personal medical emergency.  Spielman has led Ellington for three terms, winning reelection most recently against Democratic challenger Peggy Busse in 2019, with more than 60 percent of the vote.  The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Madru, an insurance industry professional, about his campaign and priorities if elected. This interview has been edited for clarity. What led you to run for first selectman of Ellington?  The candidate supported

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State Rep. Hilda Santiago Discusses a Possible Bid for Secretary of the State

In June, Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, a Democrat, announced that she would not be running for re-election, opening the door for a slew of candidates to express interest in the position. One of those is Democratic State Rep. Hilda Santiago, who announced the formation of an exploratory committee in late August. Santiago has represented Meriden in the General Assembly since 2012.  Three other possible Democratic candidates, State Sen. Matt Lesser of Middletown, Rep. Josh Elliott of Hamden, and New Haven Alderman Darryl Brackeen Jr., have also formed exploratory committees. A Republican has not served as Secretary of

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Mark Bettencourt Makes His Case for Norwich Mayor

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Norwich City Council President Pro Tempore Mark Bettencourt is running against incumbent Mayor Peter Nystrom, who is seeking a third term. In 2017, Nystrom was elected with 57 percent of the vote. Bettencourt, who lost to Nystrom in the 2009 Norwich mayoral race, has served on the City Council for a collective ten years.  The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Bettencourt about what inspired his run, and what policies he would prioritize if elected.  This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.  What inspired you to run for Mayor of Norwich?  I lost election to the City Council six years

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Erin Stewart Makes a Case for a Fifth Term as New Britain’s Mayor

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Incumbent Erin Stewart is running for a fifth term as mayor of New Britain this November. First elected in 2013, Stewart will become the longest continuously serving mayor in New Britain’s history if she wins reelection this fall. Democrats including State Rep. Bobby Sanchez, activist Alicia Hernandez Strong, and community leader Veronica DeLandro, are all running to challenge her for the seat.  In 2019, Stewart won handily, with 6,013 votes compared to Democrat Chris Porcher’s 3,592 votes and Independent Devione Tanksley’s 187 votes. The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Stewart about the city’s response to the pandemic, as well as how

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CT Examiner Talks Congressional Run with George Logan

George Logan is a former state legislator who represented Ansonia in the Connecticut State Senate from January 2017 through January 2021. Logan lost to his Democratic opponent, now-Senator Jorge Cabrera, by just 77 votes last November.  Logan is now exploring a run for Connecticut’s fifth Congressional seat, currently occupied by Representative Jahana Hayes, a Democrat elected in 2018. Hayes won reelection in 2020 with 55.9 percent of the vote. Logan currently serves as director of community relations at Aquarion Water Company, where he has worked for nearly 30 years.  What lessons did you learn from your reelection loss in November? 

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Courtney Talks Electric Boat, Jobs, Marijuana

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Connecticut’s recreational marijuana law went into effect on July 1, meaning that residents can now consume marijuana without fear of legal repercussions. Still, consumption of the drug is not consequence-free – particularly for employees of federal defense contractors, as the drug is still illegal at the federal level. Concerns around attracting workers came up repeatedly during debate over the bill in the legislature, and State Rep. Joe de la Cruz, D-Groton, said his opposition to legalization was mainly due to fears for Electric Boat.  Connecticut Examiner caught up with Congressman Joe Courtney to get his thoughts on what the new law

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Porter on the ‘Real Reason’ Lamont Threatened Marijuana Veto

As the state senate was voting to legalize marijuana, Paul Mounds, Gov. Ned Lamont’s chief of staff, released a statement that threatened to upend the entire process. Mounds made clear that the governor would veto the marijuana bill as written, unless an amendment added that day was removed.  The amendment, introduced by State Sen. Winfield, D-New Haven, would have prioritized people previously convicted of marijuana-related crimes and their immediate family members for  licenses to sell marijuana. But according to the statement, Lamont opposed letting anyone previously convicted of marijuana-related crimes, “regardless of financial means,” qualify for a special social equity

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Alberti Announces Her Second Run for First Selectman of East Lyme

EAST LYME — Democrat Camille Alberti, a member of town’s board of finance since 2013 and chair for two years, announced her second run for first selectman to an audience of about 25 people on Thursday evening.  She will compete against Republican Kevin Seery, who has served as a selectman since 2011 and as deputy first selectman since 2015. He previously served on the Board of Education for 14 years, including six years as board chair.  In 2019, Alberti was a late entrant to the race against First Selectman Mark Nickerson, replacing a candidate who needed to drop out. Nickerson

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Michael DiGiovancarlo Explains His ‘No’ Vote on Legalized Marijuana

Last Thursday, the state legislature passed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana, sending the proposal to the desk of Gov. Ned Lamont, who has said he will sign it into law on Tuesday. Effective July 1, possession of limited amounts of marijuana will be legal for people aged 21 and over, and legal sales of the drug are expected to begin next summer. The House passed the legislation 76-62, with one Republican voting in support, and 12 Democrats opposing.  One of those 12 Democrats is State Rep. Michael DiGiovancarlo of Waterbury, who defeated Republican incumbent Stephanie Cummings 52.9 percent to 47.1

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Republicans Choose Party Veteran Ben Proto as State Chairman

NEW HAVEN — Connecticut Republicans elected Ben Proto, a veteran of GOP politics, as the new head of the state party on Tuesday night. Proto, 62, has a legal practice in Stratford specializing in business and real estate law. Proto led the campaign for Donald Trump in Connecticut, and earlier supported Steve Obsitnik’s campaign for governor in 2018. Proto was the state coordinator for John McCain’s presidential run in 2000. On Tuesday night, Proto beat Gary Byron, of Newington, who served as a state representative from 2015 to 2019 and is now a radio talk show host at WDRC-AM, as

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Caroline Simmons Makes Her Case for Mayor

State Rep. Caroline Simmons, D-Stamford, announced a primary challenge against incumbent Democrat David Martin in the Stamford mayoral election. Also competing for the seat, is independent candidate Bobby Valentine, a former Major League Baseball manager and player. What inspired you to run for Mayor of Stamford?  I love this city, and I want to make it work better for the people of Stamford. I believe we’re at a critical turning point right now. Amidst this pandemic, we can’t go back to the way things were.  So many people are struggling, and thousands are out of work. We’re facing challenges to

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Bobby Valentine Makes His Case for Mayor

Former Major League Baseball player and manager Bobby Valentine announced an independent run for mayor of his native Stamford last week, challenging incumbent Democrat David Martin and State Rep. Caroline Simmons, D-Stamford. Valentine owns a restaurant and sports academy in the city, and currently serves as athletic director at Sacred Heart University.  What inspired you to run for Mayor of Stamford?  I was inspired by the timing of my life. If I’m ever going to get into public service, which is one of the boxes I’ve always wanted to check, it’s now or it’s never. In the aftermath of the

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Latina Leaders in Connecticut Meet to Encourage Women of Color to Run for Local Office

Latina leaders in Connecticut are encouraging women of color to run for local office in order to represent the needs of their communities.  In a Zoom conversation hosted by Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz on Thursday afternoon, eight elected city councilwomen, representatives and alderwomen shared their experiences and their suggestions for getting into politics.  Many of these women faced similar obstacles in running for office — lack of funding, difficulty networking, and being branded as overly emotional or being told to “wait their turn.”  “The first thing that I would say to women that decide to run in, don’t read the

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