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Candidates Blame Each Other For 7th House District Problems

Incumbent state Rep. Douglas McCrory and the endorsed Democrat, rJo Winch, blame each other for the lack of aid to district residents

By STEVEN GOODE

July 30, 2010

HARTFORD Both candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in the 7th House District agree that their constituents in the city's North End are not getting their fair share of state and federal aid.

And state Rep. Douglas McCrory and his challenger, city Councilwoman rJo Winch, point the finger of blame at each other.

McCrory, who is completing his third term in office, said he and other state legislators have worked hard to make sure that plenty of money flows into the city.

"Everyone knows we bring home more money to Hartford than any other city in the state," McCrory said. "The problem is we have no discretion on how it's allocated. I don't think the 7th District has gotten its fair share, and that's a reflection on [Winch's] leadership"

But Winch, a city council member since 2003, sees it differently, and that's why she says she is running for McCrory's seat.

"My community is concerned about what he hasn't done," said Winch, saying the city needs more aid from the state. She singled out struggling schools in the North End and what she sees as a lack of economic development and quality of life improvements along Albany Avenue. Winch, the party-endorsed candidate, said her community encouraged her to get involved in politics in the first place.

"I came home to retire, but that didn't happen," said Winch, who spent 24 years in the Air Force.

Winch, 56, said she has enjoyed her time on the city council, including the last five years as majority leader.

"It's been a good learning experience and helped me to understand what municipal government is all about," she said.

Winch said she's proud of the work she has done on the labor and workforce development subcommittee, helping create the city's youth advisory council, getting the new Albany Avenue branch library project approved and bringing the National Black Caucus convention to Hartford in 2009.

Now she wants to move to higher office, where she plans to continue to focus on youth programs, anti-violence initiatives and getting more funding for North End nonprofit agencies.

"Many of the North End nonprofits have had difficulty getting funding," she said. "These programs need a lifeline."

Winch said she also plans to focus on helping the city's unemployed or under-employed get the services and support they need, including educational programs and improving education in the North End.

Winch has personal experience in that area, having had two rental properties foreclosed in the last few years. She said that she tried to hold onto the properties after tenants lost their income and were unable to pay rent, making it impossible for her to continue paying the mortgages.

"It makes me just like a lot of other people in the district," she said.

Winch was critical of her opponent in that regard as well, saying that as an employee of the school system, McCrory is unable to lobby for change at the risk of losing his job.

McCrory, 44, an administrator who also taught in city schools and helped create the now defunct all-male Benjamin Mays Academy, pointed to recent legislation to close the achievement gap that he helped get passed unanimously in the House and Senate and noted that city students' scores on standardized tests have been climbing for the past three years.

McCrory, chairman of the judiciary and corrections subcommittee, said he is also proud of the work he did to strengthen gun laws in the city and "ban the box" legislation for ex-offenders. The legislation removed a check box on employment applications asking if the applicant had ever been convicted of a crime. McCrory said he was also proud of the work he has done securing funds for summer youth employment programs and $1.2 million for programs for children of incarcerated parents.

"We have to end generational incarceration," he said.

If he wins, McCrory said, he plans to focus on property tax relief for city residents and businesses.

McCrory declined to criticize Winch for her foreclosure troubles, but questioned her motives for running for state representative, pointing out that, as one of former Mayor Eddie A. Perez's last and staunchest supporters, Winch knows that another term on the city council is in doubt. Perez was convicted of corruption charges in June.

"I think my opponent has floated on a ship that has sunk and is now looking for other opportunities," he said.

As for not getting the endorsement from the town committee he received four of 13 votes McCrory said that was due in part to the fact that Winch has three family members on the committee and that he is an independent thinker.

"I don't let the town committee decide what's important. I let the community decide," he said.

Andrew Woods, spokesman for the 7th District town committee, disagreed with McCrory's assessment and said the majority voted against him "due to the fact that he wasn't responsive to the needs of the community."

"No one objects to someone being independent, but it boils down to accountability and accessibility," he said.

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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