By Rob Glidden
The nine candidates hoping to be elected to Southington’s state delegation discussed the tough economic conditions and political divisions in Connecticut, during a lengthy, and sometimes contentious, forum sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.
As the result of state redistricting, Southington is now represented by four house seats and one senate seat. The new district lines resulted in a larger portion of Southington as part of the 80th district, which also includes the entire town of Wolcott.
Wolcott Town Councilor and former Fire Chief Chuck Marsella is the Democratic candidate this year. He said towns like Wolcott and Southington were being neglected by the state legislature but still impacted by various state issues, such as unfunded mandates.
“If the state is going to impose a mandate on towns, it should be funded,” Marsella said. “Otherwise, we are forced to raise taxes. We just do not have the income for [new mandates] now.”
His opponent is Republican Rob Sampson, who was elected to the seat in 2010. During the forum, Sampson was highly critical of Governor Dannel Malloy’s budget and blamed excessive interference from the state for Connecticut’s struggles with economic growth.
“The state of Connecticut puts undue regulations on every aspect of our business, school and town environments,” he said. “It’s what’s driving our economy away from where we want it to be.”
Sampson also challenged the other candidates to pledge to fight the controversial New Britain bus way and the early release program for felons and to never vote for a tax increase under any circumstances. The suggestion incensed some of the other candidates, including Democrat Joe Aresimowicz, who is running unopposed in the 30th district this year but still wanted to speak with voters at the forum. Aresimowicz’s district includes portions of Southington and Berlin.
“Political partisanship is what seems to bother most of the people I talk to,” Aresimowicz said. “People are upset with political positions being chosen by legislators before the issues even come before them.”
Another Democrat, Liz Linehan, also said that relying on strict pledges was not what is needed in the state legislature.
“The bus way is done,” she said. “It’s time to move on. This ‘woulda coulda shoulda’ stuff is part of what’s wrong with Hartford. We will get nowhere if all we do is grandstand.”
Linehan, who lives in Cheshire and works in the marketing industry, said she was motivated “as a mother” to run for office. She is hoping to unseat Republican Al Adinolfi, who currently represents the 103rd district. This district, which represents portions of Cheshire and Wallingford, was recently expanded into Southington.
“What’s happening up there doesn’t make sense to me,” Adinolfi said, referring to the state’s budget process. “We’re paying taxes on everything, but what are we getting for it? The ‘shared sacrifice’ didn’t happen the way it was supposed to.”
State Senator Joe Markley (R-16) acknowledged that the issue of political gridlock was a difficult one, since each representative needs to find a balance between cooperation and staying true to individual principles.
“I don’t have any rancor in my outlook, but I am firm in what I believe in,” Markley said. “I will not support any tax increase whatsoever. I feel that the only way to get our fiscal house in order is to cut off that spigot or else the spending continues.”
His opponent from the Democratic Party, John “Corky” Mazurek, represented the 80th district until losing to Sampson in 2010. He said the two parties needed to make economic growth a priority.
“People are truly frightened about being able to keep their jobs and pay their bills,” he said. “We need to do everything we can to promote business and job growth in Connecticut.”
For more on the Senate race, see story on page 3.
The 81st district is entirely inside Southington. Town Councilor Cheryl Lounsbury, a Republican and former Town Councilor David Zoni, are competing for this seat. Both candidates emphasized bipartisanship and cooperation. Lounsbury said that voting in more Republican candidates could create a healthy balance at the legislature, even if they were not the majority.
“The Democrats have had a supermajority for over 25 years,” she said. “It’s human nature to take advantage of that, but we need to get more Republicans into the state house and senate. After that, we have to put ego aside and work to solve problems without caring about who gets the credit.”
Zoni said he was known to cross party lines during his time on the council and would apply that same approach to the legislature if elected.
“You never know where a good idea will come from,” he said. “The people on the other side are not enemies. I learn from them, they learn from me, and that’s how we get legislation accomplished.”