This coming term will test the legislature's priorities as it struggles with a large budget deficit and a decline in tax revenues because of Wall Street's woes. The state House and Senate will have to think creatively and spend wisely.
The Courant endorses the following House candidates, in bold type, in races of interest in the capital region.
1st House District
Kenneth Green, 53, a Hartford Democrat who works as a school social worker, has been a capable steward of his district in Hartford's Blue Hills neighborhood and adjoining Bloomfield. The district should send him back for an eighth term, but with some direction.
As Mr. Green is well aware, the redevelopment of the Westbrook Village and Bowles Park housing projects will be the most important developments in the neighborhood in the next decade. Mr. Green should ensure that at Westbrook, particularly, there is a mixed-income, mixed-use project that enhances the University of Hartford and the Albany Avenue commercial and arts corridor.
Also, as chairman of the legislature's housing committee, Mr. Green should take a more visible role as an advocate for affordable housing for young workers around the state. How much over-55 housing can we build?
Mr. Green is opposed by Mark A. Friedman of the Connecticut For Lieberman Party, also a Hartford resident, who appears to have done little campaigning.
4th House District
Kelvin Roldan, 30, a Hartford Democrat seeking a second term, is a remarkable young man who was born in Puerto Rico, grew up in the since-demolished Stowe Village housing project, attended Avon Old Farms School on scholarship and double-majored in Chinese and political science at Middlebury College.
Mr. Roldan is a bright star in the lackluster Hartford delegation. This year he wrote a promising (but ultimately unsuccessful) bill that would let towns issue bonds to pay for college scholarships for public school students, patterned after a Kalamazoo, Mich., program that boosted graduation rates. Last year, he wrote the law creating an advocate's position in the Department of Veterans Affairs to help Spanish-speaking veterans.
Outside the legislature, Mr. Roldan serves as acting director of strategic partnerships for Hartford public schools. He was head of policy initiatives for Mayor Eddie Perez and wrote the city's plans to eradicate chronic homelessness by 2015, among others. His district has the most homeless shelters in the city, possibly the state. The district is fortunate to have such a champion.
Bryce Snarski-Pierce of Hartford, from the Connecticut For Lieberman Party, is also on the ballot. The Republican candidate, J. Stan McCauley, has withdrawn from the race.
5th House District
Democrat Marie Lopez Kirkley-Bey, 67, seeks a ninth term from the North Hartford district, and is the best candidate in the field. She has been attentive to the district, and her successes reflect that attention. She got funds to transport Hartford workers to the casinos and to reinstate a summer youth employment program, and she supported equalizing the penalties for crack and powder cocaine. She is an effective voice at the Capitol for the urban constituency.
But the district was one of the poorest in the state when Ms. Kirkley-Bey was first elected, and it so remains. We would like to see her make a major effort toward bringing private business development to the district. That, coupled with education and job training, is the best long-term hope for the neighborhood.
She is challenged by two petitioning candidates, Larry Charles, 54, and Craig Stallings, 36. Mr. Charles talks a good game and knows the neighborhood, but too many questions remain about his leadership of the community group ONE/CHANE, which Mr. Charles says he is rescuing from bankruptcy. Mr. Stallings' focus on local issues suggests he should run for the city council.
9th House District
At age 30, Jason Rojas, a Democrat who is director of community relations for Trinity College, has already served 2 1/2 years on the East Hartford board of education followed by 2 1/2 years on the town council. He is bright and an innovator, as evidenced by a recent program to put books in barbershops for children to read.
Mr. Rojas displays a good grasp of how the state must grow. He would focus development in town centers and away from farms and open space, improve the state's rail system and push for property tax reform. His intelligence and energy will be welcome at the Capitol and we endorse him.
He is opposed by Republican Clifton Thompson, 61, a former Hartford police officer-turned-lawyer who served on the Manchester board of directors in the 1990s. He has a pro-business, anti-crime agenda.
16th House District
A Democrat and registered nurse who has worked as a health-care consultant and head of the state's Medicaid program, Linda Schofield, 53, distinguished herself during her first term from the Simsbury district by devising a plan for using federal money to expand prescription-drug benefits to the state's low-income elderly and disabled residents. Called ConnPACE Plus, the plan would have saved Connecticut's Medicare recipients an estimated $45 million in premiums and co-pays at no additional cost to the state. Unfortunately, it fell victim to last year's "do-nothing" budget. Still, these and other initiatives of Ms. Schofield's have us hoping for more.
Her Republican rival, attorney Robert Heagney, 55, held this seat for four terms until his defeat in the last go-round. Mr. Heagney acknowledges that the economy and state deficit will shape the agenda of the next session. Yet for all his legislative experience, he has few specifics for dealing with it.
Also on the ballot are Working Families candidate Deborah Beth Noble, 45, an auditor for Chubb Specialty Insurance in Simsbury; and Robert Kalechman, 75, a petitioning candidate.
18th House District
Andrew M. Fleischmann, a 44-year-old Democrat from West Hartford, is a thoughtful, productive legislator who merits a ninth term. He takes well-deserved pride in his leadership on campaign finance reform. He has been a major force in shaping educational policy aimed at closing the achievement gap.
The head of a communications training company, he has good ideas for improving the climate for small businesses and finding efficiencies in state government by identifying programs that yield results.
He and his Republican opponent, Thomas Knox, 37, a cardiologist from West Hartford, agree on basic issues, such as the need to provide affordable health care and the importance of education. Dr. Knox is off-base, however, on the value of a mandatory "three-strikes" law in reducing crime. He lacks Mr. Fleischmann's regional perspective.
19th House District
Beth Bye, 46, a West Hartford Democrat and former educator who is seeking a second term, is a thoughtful and effective lawmaker with a strong interest in education and the environment, but with an understanding that state programs cost money and must be effective. Her analysis of the $20 million early reading program resulted in $10 million being withdrawn pending better planning and evaluation.
On the environment, she has become one of the legislature's leading advocates for increased recycling, and has personally eschewed the use of plastic bottles.
She is opposed by Republican Theresa McGrath, 40, former head of the West Hartford Taxpayers Association, who favors a property tax cap and tougher criminal penalties.
20th House District
In 10 years in the House, David McCluskey, 48 and a Democrat, has established himself as an innovative thinker with a good grasp of how state government works. He was a leader in the reform of campaign finance, and as a member of the Transportation Committee is an articulate voice for energy-saving transportation options across the state.
Mr. McCluskey believes the current economic slowdown represents a historic opportunity to consolidate state government, but also thinks bonding of infrastructure projects should continue so government will help grow the state out of the recession. He should be sent back for a sixth term from the West Hartford district.He is opposed by Republican Chad Thompson, 29, an information systems specialist and college student who wants to cut taxes and shift government services to volunteer and nonprofit entities. Trinity College engineering professor John Mertens of the Connecticut For Lieberman Party also seeks the seat.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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