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Hartford GOP Councilwoman Airey-Wilson To Seek Senate Seat

By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer

May 01, 2008

Republican city Councilwoman Veronica Airey-Wilson has filed papers to run for state Senate, setting the stage for a battle with longtime state lawmaker, Sen. Eric D. Coleman.

Airey-Wilson, 53, the owner of Airey Insurance Group, an Allstate branch in West Hartford, has served on the Hartford city council for a decade and a half. Saying she considers Coleman a friend, Airey-Wilson said Wednesday that she has long planned to run for higher office.

"I've served on the Hartford city council for almost 16 years now," Airey-Wilson said. "I feel I've contributed an awful lot there, and it is really time to take the next step. I've always had career aspirations to serve at the state level."

Known for her willingness to cross the political aisle, Airey-Wilson said she hopes to gain support from a broad base in the three towns that make up the 2nd Senate District Hartford, Windsor and Bloomfield. Airey-Wilson has said she "represents the people, not the party."

Plus, she said she has talked to people in the district who are disillusioned with Coleman's performance.

"My focus will be to try to get all three towns working together on issues that pertain to all of us," Airey-Wilson said. "I think I'm the person to make that happen. I think Eric has served for a number of years in that capacity. But frankly, when I go around those towns, people are asking 'Where is he?' He hasn't been seen that much these days."

Airey-Wilson said she hopes to pull heavily from the region's Caribbean population. Airey-Wilson was born in Jamaica and moved to Hartford when she was 8. She was the city's first Jamaican American deputy mayor and was the first Jamaican American woman to serve on city council.

Coleman did not return several phone calls for comment. His aide said he was tied up in state legislative hearings.

Coleman has been challenged for his seat in the last three elections the toughest of those coming in a primary against former Windsor Deputy Mayor Tim Curtis in 2004.

Coleman is one of the region's longest standing members of the General Assembly, having served from 1983 to 1994 in the House of Representatives and since 1995 in the state Senate. He has said in the past that his experience and seniority give him an edge when it comes to representing his constituents a fact he said is not lost on voters.

Airey-Wilson said she has told Coleman of her plans to run and insisted it wasn't personal.

"I told him it isn't about him, it is politics," she said. "I said to him that he should know about that better than anyone else."

Airey-Wilson said her campaign will benefit from a recent change in state law that allows candidates to seek significant public financing for their campaigns. Airey-Wilson said she plans to receive an $85,000 grant if she can meet certain fundraising thresholds, such as receiving more than 300 donations between $5 and $100 and raising $15,000. The law also requires the candidate to be endorsed by his or her party.

A campaign chest of $100,000 would allow her to run a thorough campaign, she said.

"The mere fact that this is the first year of state financing certainly encouraged me to look at the possibility of making it happen this year," she said. "I don't know that I believe in spending taxpayer money that way, but it is available, so I will take advantage of it."

Airey-Wilson graduated from Weaver High School in 1972 and got a full scholarship to Ithaca College in upstate New York. She graduated from Ithaca magna cum laude in 1975.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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