A weakened economy and waning tax revenues mean local and state governments will have to get by with less. The Courant's editorial board endorses the following candidates, in bold, for state Senate in the belief that they possess the skills, experience and ability to help Connecticut meet the challenges of the next two years:
1st Senate District
John W. Fonfara, 52, a Hartford Democrat and six-term incumbent, is a street-smart politician. He's helped fund business improvements, low-income housing and jobs, and is a champion of universal preschool programs that get kids ready to learn. He is cross-endorsed by the Working Families party.
Wethersfield lawyer Barbara Ruhe, 59, a Republican and first-time candidate, believes (with some justification) that the legislature is "stale." She wants a revamping of the "dysfunctional" Department of Children and Families and favors capping local property tax increases at 3 percent and eliminating the tax on cars valued below $30,000.
Green Party candidate S. Michael DeRosa, 63, a computer consultant from Wethersfield, is also on the ballot.
2nd Senate District
Attorney Eric Coleman, 57, of Bloomfield touts experience and seniority as his assets: The deputy president pro tem has been a senator since 1995 and previously served for 11 years in the House. When budget problems prompted the Hartford Public Library to shut down two branches this summer, he prevailed on legislative leaders to come up with $200,000 to keep them open. He is cross-endorsed by the Working Families party.
His Republican opponent, Veronica Airey-Wilson, 55, owns an insurance business and has been a Hartford councilwoman for 16 years. She has an ambitious agenda that includes property tax reform and home-foreclosure assistance. Unfortunately, her candidacy is marred by her failure to pay $5,000 in 2006 and 2007 property taxes on her home until late this summer. Ms. Airey-Wilson's kitchen countertops have also attracted the attention of state investigators probing Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez's administration: Ms. Airey-Wilson bought them from a company owned by a city contractor. Her mixing personal and public business doesn't speak well of her judgment.
5th Senate District
Democrat Jonathan Harris, 44, a lawyer from West Hartford, is seeking his third term. His candidacy has been cross-endorsed by the Working Families party. He previously served as West Hartford's mayor and has helped to bring fiscal accountability to the legislature. He is a strong backer of mass transportation, regionalizing local services and promoting alternative-energy technologies.
His Republican challenger, Joseph Merritt, 66, of Bloomfield is also a strong candidate. Mr. Merritt has served for 19 years on the Bloomfield Town Council and is minority leader. He is chairman of the West Hartford- Bloomfield Health District.
6th Senate District
Three-term incumbent Donald J. DeFronzo, a New Britain Democrat, has helped produce some of the most significant legislation in recent years, including major ethics reforms and landmark campaign-finance law.
Mr. DeFronzo, 60, retired, is a former two-term mayor of New Britain and headed its housing authority. The independent-minded progressive has earned a reputation for working in a bipartisan manner. He is cross-endorsed by the Working Families party.
His opponent, Thomas A. Bozek, 67, also of New Britain, has been endorsed by the Republicans and will appear on their line on the ballot, although he retains his Democratic Party affiliation. Mr. Bozek was a four-term state senator and served four terms on the New Britain common council.
7th Senate District
The Democrat-controlled legislature benefits from balance and ideas provided by Republicans. During his eight terms in the Senate, John A. Kissel, 49, of Enfield has built a good record in that regard.
Mr. Kissel, a lawyer for Northeast Utilities, has carved a niche for himself as an expert in prison-sentencing policy. He is right that rehabilitative programs, not new prisons, are the best hope for breaking the cycle of recidivism and reducing prison crowding. He's willing to work with Democrats on ferreting out waste in state government. He is cross-endorsed by the Working Families party.
His challenger, Democrat George A. Colli IV, 29, a Suffield Realtor, lacks Mr. Kissel's experience, but among his best ideas is to invest in "green collar" jobs to lure young people to the state.
8th Senate District
A knack for thoughtful analysis and the big picture and an amiable nature are qualities Democrat Arthur House would bring to the Senate.
Mr. House, 66, lives in Simsbury and is a senior vice president for Webster Bank. He's short on elective experience but no stranger to politics. He served as chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Abraham Ribicoff and as staff director to the U.S. Senate majority leader.
Mr. House has a keen perspective on the state's economic strengths and the investments needed in affordable housing, education, energy and mass transportation. He is cross-endorsed by the Working Families party.
His Republican opponent, Kevin Witkos, 44, of Canton is a police sergeant and fire chief who's held the 17th House District for three terms.
Last session, Mr. Witkos proposed legislation that would require all public school students to show proof of health insurance. The bill failed, but could have extended coverage to as many as 45,000 children. He was also among the first Republican legislators to publicly call for the resignation of Gov. John G. Rowland. He's a good lawmaker, but Mr. House is more promising.
9th Senate District
Attorney Paul Doyle, 45, of Wethersfield has served six terms in the state House and two in the Senate. He takes a prudent approach to state finances. He backs regular review of programs to avoid redundancy. Mr. Doyle is cautious about using the state's rainy day fund, but would oppose cutting aid to towns in the middle of their budget years.
His Republican challenger, Ralph Capenera, 50, of Rocky Hill is a professional singer and owns a consignment shop.
He's campaigning to reduce the size of government and channel more money to local schools and less to "urban special interests," according to his website. (He declined an interview with the editorial board.)
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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