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Sixth District Race: Challenger, Incumbent Trade Barbs

By JENNA CARLESSO

July 23, 2010

HARTFORD It seemed like smooth sailing for freshman state Rep. Hector Robles when Democrats unanimously endorsed him for the 6th House District seat at their nominating convention in May.

But shortly after the convention, community activist Alyssa Peterson quietly began collecting signatures to wage a primary. She got enough to put her name on the Aug. 10 ballot.

Now Peterson is raising her voice.

During one of her first public appearances in July, Peterson told the audience at a candidate forum that Robles a Hartford police officer is the target of a department internal investigation. Hartford police have confirmed they are investigating Robles, but declined to release details until the probe is complete, saying only that it is "administrative" in nature, not criminal.

Peterson has also been handing out campaign literature citing several civilian complaints filed against Robles in his capacity as a police officer, and said she intends to knock on every door in her south Hartford district to make sure voters know about them.

"I'm giving a copy of his record to every voter, and I'll let them decide," Peterson said. "I want voters to see he's like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

Robles pointed out that every complaint against him was dismissed and said Peterson's strategy is distracting voters from the issues facing the city.

"The tactics being used against me are unfortunate. I proved two years ago that those tactics don't work and I'll prove it again this year," said Robles, who is finishing up his first term. "My constituents know that kind of politics is old."

He said voters are less concerned with "things that happened years ago," and are instead focused on how they are being represented at the state Capitol.

"People want to know how effective you're going to be as a leader. I've proven it to them. I've produced results," Robles said. "My challenger has none of that."

If re-elected, Robles said, he plans to reintroduce legislation calling for mandatory minimum sentences for offenders who assault police officers or other public safety personnel. He co-sponsored such a bill during this year's legislative session, but the measure was rewritten to exclude the mandatory minimums. The bill, which was signed into law by Gov. M. Jodi Rell in May, requires prosecutors to notify public safety personnel who are the victims of an assault of any court proceeding involving a plea bargain or sentencing in advance as well as the outcome of the case.

Robles, a member of the finance, revenue and bonding committee, said he also hopes to craft legislation that would allow Connecticut cities and towns to use municipal bonds as part of their budgets to ease the burden on taxpayers. In larger cities like Hartford, he said, the measure would especially benefit residents and small business owners. Using the bonds as a revenue stream would require a fee, Robles said, but it would be "a small price to pay in the long run."

"I feel very confident going into the primary," he said. "Of course you get a couple of hiccups on the road."

Peterson said she is concerned with infrastructure and capital improvement in south Hartford. If elected, she said, she plans to analyze all state funding sent to Hartford to learn how money is being spent. From there, she said, she would consider reallocating funds to different projects or programs, such as street repairs or upkeep of city parks.

"I don't think residents have been included in the discussion of where state tax dollars are going or where they'd like them to go," Peterson said.

Asked what edge she has over her opponent, she replied: "I'm a better person than Hector. I think I could be a better representative of the people. People associate Hector with Eddie Perez, and I think they want to be done with that era."

News of the internal investigation into Robles surprised some Hartford Democratic Town Committee members. Members from the 6th District met on July 17 to discuss the matter, with Robles present to answer questions.

Janet Appellof, a spokeswoman for the town committee's 6th District, said members are still backing Robles.

"At this particular point, everyone is still supporting him," she said. "Any action taken otherwise will have to be agreed upon by all 13 members of the 6th District."

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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