By JEN CARDINES
It was standing room only on the main floor of the Southington Public Library last Wednesday during the political candidate forum. Sponsored by the library and the Chamber of Commerce, the event was a means for local voters to meet their representatives for office.
“The turnout was better than expected,” library director Sue Smayda said. “We are so pleased that everyone came out.”
All nine of Southington’s candidates were present for the question forum and a “meet and greet” session that followed. Ryan Rogers (D) and incumbent Joe Markley (R), both running for the 16th district state senate seat were present, along with the seven State Representative candidates. David Zoni (D-81st District) and his Republican challenger John Fusco were on hand, as well as House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz (D-30th district) and his 19-year-old Republican challenger Christopher Morelli. Liz Linehan (D) and Andrew Falvey (R), who are both running for the open 103rd district seat, and Robert Sampson (R) who is running unopposed in the 80th district, were all on hand for the community discussion.
“Part of the library’s mission is to offer information to the town, about the town,” said Smayda. “I’m very happy all the candidates came,” she said with a smile.
Any Southington resident that attended the forum received a slip where they could write down a question for the candidates. Moderator John Goralski read the questions to the prospective representatives, allowing each to have a 2 minute window for response.
All questions asked publically were answered by every candidate, covering heroin and drug abuse, the state budget, and capital projects.
After the 90 minute forum, attendees had the opportunity to mingle with the candidates to personally speak with them and ask questions.
“It is a good opportunity to get direct access to the candidates,” said Chamber executive director Liz Hyatt.
Brian Callahan, Republican Town Committee chair, called it a terrific event. “The questions were all good,” he said. “An opportunity for follow up questions would’ve helped, but overall it was great.”
“We’re pleased to see the Democratic candidates up there, and I think they got their message across,” said Democratic Town Committee chair Robert Berkmoes. “Incumbents Aresimowicz and Zoni are doing a great job, and Ryan [Rogers] and Liz [Linehan] would be great additions.”
This was the first time the library hosted a political forum, but the size of the crowd was not indicative of that. More than 70 registered for the event, but officials counted over 100 in attendance.
“People took the time to come out and show they have interest,” Hyatt said.