Connecticut voters go to the polls November 8 to elect candidates for all 187 General Assembly seats in an election that will have a profound impact on the state's future.

Here's a sampling of what some of those candidates for the Connecticut state Senate and House are saying in forums, debates, and media interviews in towns and cities around the state.

Election 201618th Senate District

(Griswold, Groton, North Stonington, Plainfield, Preston, Sterling, Stonington, Voluntown)

Former state House member Timothy Bowles, a Democrat, and Republican Heather Somers are vying for the 18th Senate District seat left vacant when incumbent Andrew Maynard decided not to run for re-election.

Connecticut's ongoing fiscal crisis and poor business climate were the main topics when the two met in an October 12 debate.

Bowles noted that the need to create “viable, well-paying jobs” was a common theme in the district and said he developed a reputation for bipartisanship during his term as a state legislator.

“I have a record of reaching out and seeking common ground,” he said. “I've been outside of the system for some time...I’m going up there after a two-year hiatus with a fresh perspective."

Somers said to attract businesses, the state must get its fiscal house in order and make it easier for businesses to secure regulatory approvals.

"I have many ideas for how to decrease the deficit,” she said. “If we don’t create job growth, we’ll never get out of this deficit.

"We need to help small businesses get started. All business growth is coming out of small companies that are zero to five years old."

19th Senate District

(Columbia, Franklin, Hebron, Lebanon, Ledyard, Lisbon, Marlborough, Montville, Norwich, Sprague)

Democratic incumbent Cathy Osten and Barbara Crouch, the Republican challenger for the 19th Senate seat, discussed the issues in October 9 interviews with The Day of New London.

During her time in office, Osten said she addressed business overregulation, including streamlining Connecticut Human Rights and Opportunities procedures and working to reduce workers compensation costs.

Osten noted that she was also coordinating efforts to develop better regional economic ties between southeastern Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Spending and taxes are out of control. We've got to do things differently.
— Senate candidate Barbara Crouch (R-Baltic)
“We plan to develop three key points that we can focus on in terms of legislation, with a goal of submitting parallel legislation in each state," she said.

"We want to ensure we are working together—and not competing with each other—to advance our goals for what is truly a shared economy.”

Crouch said excessive state government regulation was hurting economic growth.

"The state is hindering economic growth with too many business regulations," she said. "The legislature never goes back and says, 'Hey, is this working the way it was intended?'

"Spending and taxes are out of control. The state doesn't seem to have a plan. Taxes keep going up and up. We've got to do things differently."

20th Senate District

(Bozrah, East Lyme, Montville, New London, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Salem, Waterford)

In a September 29 debate, Republican state Senator Paul Formica and Democratic challenger Ryan Henowitz agreed that Connecticut must get its fiscal house to stop young people and retirees from leaving the state.

Saying the state is “less than business-friendly,” Formica blamed Connecticut’s slow economic progress on a lack of bipartisanship.

"I worked hard to reach across the aisle,” he said. “A lot of people up there don’t speak to each other.”

Henowitz called for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and said the state should stop subsidizing big corporations that pay low wages.

"We don’t have the economy working for working people,” he said. “We need more jobs paying middle-class wages.”

31st Senate District

(Bristol, Harwinton, Plainville, Plymouth, Thomaston)

Republican incumbent Henri Martin and Democratic challenger Michael Nicastro met in an October 11 31st Senate District debate.

Martin called the state's business climate "unpredictable," saying he entered politics because legislators were being "lazy" by raising taxes to solve the state's fiscal problems.

"Our budgets have recurring deficits and I see vacancies in businesses," he said. "If we elect the Democrats back into a majority position they will raise your taxes again and we can't afford that.

“It is difficult [for businesses] to make a five or 10-year plan if you don’t know if taxes will be raised. We need to stop fiscal irresponsibility and control spending.”

Nicastro said he supports closing tax loopholes for top earners as a way to close budget deficits and called for clawbacks to punish businesses who receive financial incentives for leaving the state.

"We need to focus on entrepreneurship," he said. "They are the ones who grow jobs, not the big businesses.

"I'm excited for what we have in Connecticut. I won't root against it for political purposes.

"We need to get our fiscal house in order but we also need to have innovative governance."

33rd Senate District

(Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland, Westbrook)

Republican incumbent Art Linares is being challenged by Democrat Norm Needleman and the Green Party's Colin Bennett in the 33rd Senate race.

In an October 12 interview with The Day, Linares said he supports a simpler business tax code and using future state budget surpluses to reduce income and sales taxes.

“Jobs and the economy are the number one concern I hear from my entire district,” he said. “Connecticut has the slowest growing economy in New England.”

“We also need to adjust the size of our government, consolidate some agencies...We should use technology to shrink the size of government.”

Business owners who choose to live here are important for creating a stable base for the state.
— Senate candidate Norm Needleman (D-Essex)
Needleman told The Day he would work to build relationships in both parties to tackle the state’s problems, from education spending inequities to fostering small business growth and preserving the state’s quality of life.

“Businesses of my size and smaller, where you have business owners who choose to live here are important for creating a stable base for the state,” he said.

“The measure of my success as a senator would not be in how many bills I pass, it will be in removing some regulations.”

Bennett called for tax increases, saying "We need to raise taxes on the wealthy in this state. They haven’t been paying their fair share of taxes.”

22nd House District

(New Britain, Plainville)

Illness prevented Democratic state Representative Elizabeth Boukus from attending an October 11 debate with Republican challenger William Petit, Jr. in the 22nd House District.

Boukus' campaign manager read a prepared statement at the debate

"We just cut $1 billion from future financial costs, which passed unanimously and made some tough decisions," Boukus said in the statement.

"We need to support our vocational technical schools while addressing taxes, offering tax relief for graduates, allow them to deduct student loans and fight for paid sick time.”

Petit said was is running for office to ensure that his son, William Petit III, can get "a great education, a great job, and have a great quality of life."

He added that while big businesses are important, small businesses are the “lifeblood” that drives the economy.

40th House District

(Groton, Ledyard)

Republican incumbent John Scott and Christine Conley, the Democratic challenger for the 40th House District, discussed transportation infrastructure and job growth in a September 13 forum.

Scott said without specific language that protects designated transportation funds, he would not support a lockbox, or the addition of tolls in Connecticut.

"My fear is that we will create another bucket of money that is not constitutionally protected and future legislators will be able to willy-nilly scoop money out of it," he said.

Conley said she would support tolls, given improved technology. Conley said she was buoyed by recent hirings at Electric Boat, saying those jobs will lead to additional jobs in the area.

Scott said fewer regulations will help to increase business starts and job growth, adding that he supported lower taxes for business taxes.

41st House District

(Groton, New London)

First-term incumbent Aundre Bumgardner, a Republican, and Democratic challenger Joe de la Cruz met in an October 12 41st House District debate.

Bumgarder said the state needs a different approach and cannot afford more tax increases, negative business surveys, and status-quo budgeting, adding that GE's decision to move its headquarters was "an enormous loss."

“I think we need to take them leaving incredibly seriously,” he said. “It was a huge part of the reason why I voted against the budget last year.

"There were so many businesses and residents that came to me and said, ‘I cannot afford another tax increase. Why can’t the state learn to reduce spending and reform the business climate so we have more businesses coming in, which will increase the revenue in the long run?'”

De la Cruz said he realized the state budget discussion must change after the legislature's Appropriations Committee approved a $4.56 million cut to state education funding to Groton, although most of the cuts were later rescinded.

“If that went through, that would have changed the complexion of Groton schools for years,” he said.

“As someone who’s been through nine local budgets, I can actually defend why we get the money we get and why we should even get more money.”

43rd House District

(North Stonington, Stonington)

Democratic incumbent Diana Urban and Nick Mullane, her Republican challenger in the 43rd House District, met in a September 24 debate.

Urban said the state faces serious challenges and needs an experienced state legislator who can work in a bipartisan fashion to consistently get bills to a vote.

We have a perfect storm in Connecticut. We’re broke. The challenge will be the next budget.
— House candidate Nick Mullane (R-North Stonington)
She said state agencies must adopt results-based budgeting, which requires proving that a program works in order to get funded instead of just building on previous budgets.

Mullane said “we have a perfect storm in Connecticut. We’re broke. I mean seriously. The challenge will be the next budget.”

He added the state needs to pursue tax and workers compensation reform, improve the business climate, and eliminate burdensome regulations.

46th House District


Democratic incumbent Emmett Riley has two challengers in the 46th House District, Republican Robert Dempsky, and petitioning candidate Bonnie Hong.

In a three-way debate on October 4, Riley promoted a plan to lower first-time home purchases taxes for college graduates and said he supported raising the minimum wage.

“I can proudly say I have voted twice to increase the minimum wage, and I will certainly do it again until we get to a point probably much past $15 an hour for those individuals that work on a daily basis for 40 or 45 hours a week,” Riley said.

Dempsky said the best way to keep people in Connecticut was reducing state spending and not raising taxes, saying increasing the minimum wage was another tax on businesses and could cost jobs.

"When you're talking about a wage of any kind, how is that transacted? That's two people, or a person and a business, agreeing on a job for a wage," he said. "Nobody is making anybody go to work for X amount of money. They freely enter into a contract.”

Hong said raising the minimum wage would help alleviate the state budget crisis. She said the minimum wage will rise to $10 per hour in January, but should be $15 an hour “so it's a livable wage.”

77th House District


Republican incumbent Cara Pavalock and Laura Bartok, her Democratic challenger for the 77th House District seat, shared their opinions on balancing the state budget in October 13 interviews with the Hartford Courant.

Pavalock opposes new taxes and fees, and supports eliminating public campaign funding, capping bonding at $1.6 billion annually, and prioritizing transportation projects,

We have taxed everything that moves, and everything that doesn't. We don't need to tax anything else.
— State Rep. Cara Pavalock (R-Bristol)
"We have taxed everything that moves, and everything that doesn't. We don't need to tax anything else," she said.

Bartok did not propose new taxes, saying she would consider consolidating some agencies, but warned that spending reductions alone were not the answer to the state's fiscal problems.

"We cannot simply cut our way to financial security," she said. "Every job cut is also a loss of tax revenue, and every program or service cut is a loss of an opportunity."

78th House District

(Bristol, Plymouth)

Republican incumbent Whitt Betts and Democratic challenger Krystal Myers are the candidates in the 78th House District and spoke with the Hartford Courant October 10.

Betts told the Courant he wouldn't support any state revenue increases next year until state government is downsized. He wants contract concessions from state workers, privatization of some state services, and a reduction of mandates and regulations on businesses, municipalities, schools,and hospitals.

Myers said if budget cuts are necessary next year, she'd support an across-the-board approach rather than targeting some agencies or services more than others. She said the state should streamline its upper-level management ranks, particularly by evaluating the need for deputy commissioners' jobs.

119th House District

(Milford, Orange)

GOP incumbent Pam Staneski told an October 17 119th House District debate with Democrat challenger Ben Gettinger that "Connecticut was at a financial crossroads."

“In 2015, the second-largest tax increase was passed. We lost businesses and revenue,” she said.

“We have to invest in business. They’ll hire people, so we can go back to work.

"Connecticut should be one of the most desirable destinations for people and businesses in the country."

Gettinger called for more bipartisanship in Hartford, saying “to actually fix Connecticut, it’s going to take joint ideas.

“There is a lot of wasteful spending in government,” he said.

“The state should be held accountable by taxpayers.”

135th House District

(Easton, Redding, Weston)

Republican Adam Dunsby and the Green Party's Bonnie Troy debated the issues October 8. They are contesting the 135th House District seat left open when GOP incumbent John Shaban stepped down to run for Congress.

Dunsby said companies will come to Connecticut "if we have low taxes, a stable tax environment, and a regulatory system that isn’t oppressive to businesses."

Troy, who is cross-endorsed by the Democratic Party, said the state needed to “give businesses incentives to come here and stay here,” particularly companies that focus on sustainability and practice “progressive environmental policies."

136th House District


Democratic state Representative Jonathan Steinberg and Republican challenger Catherine Walsh focused on the state's projected billion dollar-plus budget deficits in an October 5 136th House District debate.

Steinberg said zero-based budgeting and performance-based accountability were solutions for resolving deficits and making government more efficient.

Pension and healthcare benefits, with debt service and Medicaid, are strangling all other government services.
— State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport)
“Pension and healthcare benefits, collectively, with debt service and Medicaid, represent over 40 percent of our entire budget," he said.

"It is strangling all other government services and is only going to get worse."

Walsh said the state needed to reopen and negotiate state employee union contracts and re-evaluate many of the government's current business practices.

"We can change the way business is done and everybody will prosper,” she said.

139th House District

(Bozrah, Montville, Norwich)

Democrat Kevin Ryan, who holds the 139th House District seat, met Republican challenger Joseph Mark Taraya in a September 27 forum.

Ryan said his experience dealing with the state's challenges was important, saying “We know what we’ve done in the past that hasn’t worked well, and what we have to do that’s new, so we don’t...repeat the same mistakes.”

Ryan said new taxes alone won’t solve the state’s problems, saying he would promote economic investment, pension reform, and ask state workers to suggest ways to be more efficient.

Taraya said higher taxes were not a solution to the state’s fiscal crisis.

“I’ll take the pledge,” he said. “Raising taxes is not the answer.

“It’s keeping our businesses and making sure we have taxpayers in our state.”