The Democratic Primary for the 58th Assembly District will be held this Tuesday, Aug. 14. Voters in the 58th District will vote at Enfield High School between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Patch has asked both candidates - State Representative Kathleen Tallarita and challenger David Alexander - to respond to five questions. Though Patch does not endorse candidates, it has a strong commitment to Enfield and hopes this questionnaire can help those voters who have not decided for whom they will vote.
As an aside, both Democrats and Republicans will be voting for a United States Senator to represent their respective parties in the November election. Voters residing in the 59th Assembly District will vote at JFK School, and voters in the 58th Assembly District will vote at Enfield High School. Voting hours at both schools are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Kathleen and David received these questions last week and responded by email. Patch wishes to thank both candidates and wishes them both well.
Q: With the primary only days away, and with the both of you working hard by knocking on doors, what are the voters telling you?
Kathleen Tallarita: As I knock on doors, make calls or even speak with folks at events in the community, I hear everyday their concerns…jobs, the economy and education, specifically the direction our town is moving. Business leaders need a well-educated and skilled workforce to succeed and grow in our state. One of the hallmarks of the 2012 legislative session is our commitment to education – I fought to protect funding for public education and municipal aid. I am proud to have been a part of a leadership team that brought some of the most significant investments in education to Connecticut towns in decades including more funding for Education Cost Sharing Grant, school-based health centers and family resource centers. In addition, we acknowledge the critical importance of early childhood education, by underwriting 1,000 school readiness slots for preschoolers and funding several initiatives to improve early reading success. I am proud to have led the fight for more jobs in our state – and in particular our region. I worked tirelessly with Democratic leadership to ensure that important dollars to support job growth initiatives made their way to Enfield with a $2.2 million commitment for manufacturing expansion at Asnuntuck Community College. We extended the Small Business Express Package to include businesses with 100 employees or less which is already helping small businesses here in Enfield expand through incentives, grants and loans. I advocated for the STEP UP program to help unemployed workers, people receiving services from DSS and Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan find jobs. My work in Hartford is not done. We have many issues that we are facing this coming year, and that work will continue to need a strong voice in Hartford, making sure that Enfield is not left unheard. As your State Representative, I am that voice.
David Alexander: The vast majority of voters I met are extremely frustrated with state government. They feel ignored and alienated, and they feel like state leaders are not in touch with their concerns. In fact, I’ve knocked on over 3,500 doors, and many people say that I’m the first candidate that has visited their home in many years. Most voters also feel that their opinions are not respected. For instance, I heard from many people who were upset about the retro-active tax that was included in the 2011 budget, and most people feel that we cannot spend our way out of our state’s current fiscal problem. I also think that most voters would agree that perhaps new energy and a fresh perspective are needed to address many problems facing the General Assembly.
Q: As you knock on doors, was there any one incident or comment that stands out in your mind?
KT: When you’re knocking doors and talking with voters you really just find that people are very friendly and nice. Some offered a glass of water or some lemonade on those really hot days, one family asked if I wanted to go for a swim. But what really keeps you motivated, especially on those brutality hot days is when you hear from folks, “you are doing a great job, thank you!” One incident, a few Sundays back I knocked a door and a gentleman answered, he listened to my plea for his vote, and he said “Oh yeah…sure.” When I asked if he had any questions, concerns he wanted to talk about he told me a story about his daughter and her family and their issues with facing possible foreclosure. I was able to make some calls, connect her with the right agencies and his daughter is now in a program to help her get back on track and hopefully keep her house. Another was a phone call I received from gentleman whose granddaughter lives in my district, her power was shut off, she’s been working two jobs to make ends meet but fell behind on her electric bill. Her 7 year old daughter has health issues, I was able to work with Northeast Utilities to get her power turned back on and the electric company has helped put together a payment plan so she can get caught up on back bills and keep current. These are the types of stories that make me proud to be the State Representative from Enfield’s 58th District.
DA: I had the privilege to meet a gentleman in North Thompsonville who was a former Marine. He was stationed years ago at Cherry Point, North Carolina, and he enjoyed hearing that I once visited Cherry Point to have dinner with a Marine Officer friend of mine when I was in a school at Camp Lejuene. This gentleman and I talked about both of our Marine experiences, and I explained why I was running for State Representative. A few weeks later I was back in this gentlemen’s neighborhood re-knocking the area, and I stopped to see him. He motioned for me to walk over to his porch, and he had a gift for me. Being a talented woodworking craftsman he actually decided to make five wooden campaign buttons for me. Later that week I stopped back to his house to pick up twenty more buttons. I was extremely honored and humbled that this gentlemen took it upon himself to make campaign buttons for me, and many of my supporters have worn the buttons with pride
Q: The summer is really an awful time for a primary. People are on vacation, or may fail to vote because of oppressive heat. This is why pollsters have such a tough time handicapping primaries. The other problem, at least in Enfield, is the lack of polling places. Only JFK and Enfield High will be opened. Should you win the primary and then go on to win the November election, will you try to correct the twin problems of voting in the summer and the lack of polling places?
KT: Yes, the summer is a brutal time for people to get engaged with an election, especially with the heat. Kids are home from school, teachers finally have some time to relax, families plan vacations and just want to get away from the everyday hustle and bustle, the last thing they want is us knocking on there doors. The legislature is not who changed the polling places, the Registrar of Voters made that decision in conjunction with the Town Council. I’d love to work with all parties to find common ground on where voters can vote and how. When I go back to Hartford in January, I want to work with the Chairs of Government Administration and Elections Committee, the committee where we first worked together Bill, the Governor and the Secretary of State to see what changes we can make to allow voters to feel more comfortable and engaged in our process. Perhaps looking at changing the primary date back to September or May or doing what fifteen other states do, allow unaffiliated voters to participate as well. Depending on the state, independents either make their choice of party primary privately, inside the voting booth, or publicly, by registering with any party on Election Day.
DA: I think that primary elections should be moved to early September, and I would like to allow unaffiliated voters to vote in primaries like is the case in New Hampshire. I completely disagree with the decision to consolidate the polling places in town. Voting is a fundamental right, and I feel that the poll consolidation unnecessarily discourages people from voting. Many Enfield voters have had their polling place change three times in four years, and this is not acceptable and very confusing. I am alarmed that numerous members of the Town Council supported the decision to consolidate polling locations, and I question whether people in town government actually are trying to decrease turnout. Furthermore, it was a horrible decision to move District 2’s polling place to Enfield High School because it has many accessibility problems. Many seniors have told me that they cannot vote in person this year because it is simply too difficult to vote in the Enfield High School cafeteria. This is unacceptable in light of the fact that nearby Enfield Street School is a much more accessible polling location, and I will do my best to eliminate Enfield High School as a polling location.
Q: What final last words can you tell our readers to convince them to vote for you?
KT: I have lived my entire life in Enfield. The people I care most about in this world live in Enfield. My family has called Enfield our home for over 87 years. My grandparents worked at Bigelow Carpet Mill, my uncle was a shoe maker in Thompsonville. My Mother created what we know as our Enfield Senior Center and was our Director for 27 years, Bill you remember what a help she was to you when you were the State Representative from the 59th District. My Dad a United States Army Veteran built helicopters for the United States Navy at Kaman Aero Space and served for many years as Fire Commissioner. My brother Patrick was our Mayor, his wife is a nurse. My brother Louis works in Education. I work two jobs to pay the bills; I do not use this office as a stepping stone for any reason, but to represent you, the people of Enfield and my hometown. I remain as committed today as the first day I went to Hartford to fight for quality of life improvements for our town and state. Again, my work in Hartford is not done. We have many issues that we are facing this coming year and that work will continue to need a strong voice in Hartford, making sure that Enfield is not left unheard. As your State Representative, I am that voice.
DA: I am the candidate that will question business as usual in Hartford, and I will be a representative from Enfield to Hartford, not a representative from Hartford to Enfield. I also think that my background as a Company-Grade Officer in the United States Marine Corps, former legislative intern, and Enfield Zoning Board of Appeals member will make for a unique, passionate and resourceful advocate for Enfield.
Q: Patch does not endorse candidates. But if Patch did endorse, why should you get the endorsement?
KT: It has been an honor and privilege serving as Enfield’s representative in Hartford. I have always worked my hardest to put Enfield’s interest and needs first. I put party politics aside and focus on what really matters…creating jobs, quality education and more responsible fiscal policies. I continue to be guided by my parents' principle that if you are honest and treat people right, good things will follow. I am dedicated to growing jobs and keeping Connecticut competitive and continue to be committed to serving our families and our business community in the State Assembly. I hope that you feel I have represented you well and I hope I can count on your support and vote on Tuesday, August 14th. Thank you!
DA: The Enfield Patch should endorse me because the 58th District deserves an energetic advocate who will work for Enfield’s agenda, not Hartford’s agenda. The past two legislative sessions have shown us that our state cannot afford to continue on the same course. I feel that ideas like getting a light rail station in Thompsonville, establishing a job match program to get returning veterans jobs and fighting for fairer taxation are what is needed in state government. This is the time for new ideas and a fresh perspective.