Most Important Races in Connecticut

by Christopher O'Brien

By Chris O’Brien

Are you happy with Connecticut?
Is there something we should change? You have less than 10 days to GET INVOLVED and CHANGE IT!
That’s only 3 weekend days.

Here are the most important elections this year by priority:
vote box1. State Legislature

Taxes, education, healthcare, road construction – its all taking place in this body. Are there regulations on your professional licensures or curriculum in the schools that are a bit out of sync? You want to pay attention to who is running in the legislature. These campaigns often have less than 3-5 people involved and would be greatful for the difference you can make in these important races. Democrats have controlled the legislature for 20 years and their policies are our policies today. Want change? This is where the action is, and since every candidate is nearby your home they are the most accessible.

2. State Treasurer
They do more than handle the day-to-day money expenses and sign their name on checks. The State Treasurer is responsible for state investments. That’s not just a way the state makes money – but its how it takes care of critical expenses, such as the retirement accounts for over 55,000 state employees and most of the state’s public school teachers.
If you’re a public employee and worry about our hugely underfunded pensions, you want to pay attention to the candidates in this race.
If you’re a taxpayer, you want to make sure we get a bigger bang for our buck here as well and elect someone who can better take care of our government employees -otherwise this means continuously huge tax increases in the future. Hint: The current State Treasurer has been in office for 18 years, has refused to debate, meet with the media, and was arrested for driving drunk in her state vehicle last year. Time for a change.

3. US Congress
With the international stage – Ebola, ISIS, Russia, on the front page today and China will be next week, our standing in the international community and domestic economic policy will be what holds our nation together. While we don’t have a Senate election in Connecticut this year, strong House leadership can moderate and balance the President’s positions to more foreward-thinking and grounded leadership.

4. Secretary of State
Our elections are only as good as the confidence we have in them. Look at the conspiracies and disputes in other countries. Here in Connecticut, there have been after-the-fact reports of election fraud, tampering, candidates living in districts they don’t vote in, and many other problems. I’ll say that while the “bag of ballots” dispute in Bridgeport was a work of fictional media relations at the time (I was there – in fact was the ONLY Republican there during the initial count), many of the other allegations erode our confidence in the cornerstone of what Democracy is: Your right to elect your representatives. Absent that right, we have no democracy.

5. Vote “No” on the Constitutional Amendment Question.
You will be asked whether or not the State Constitution shall be amended so you don’t have to show up on election day to vote. This will open up the possibility of computerized voting from home and mail-in voting that exists in Oregon and Washington.

At first this sounds like a great idea, but let’s take a second to look at the potential for problems. Do you trust your credit card at Target or the other several dozen retailers who lost personal information over computerized systems? What about the voter fraud problems plaguing Connecticut today? Let’s combine those and who knows if your vote will be trackable, your identity and vote will be known, or even counted.

Today, anyone who wants to vote can vote at a local polling place. They can ask a simple question about how to obtain an absentee ballot if they need one. There are safeguards against most fraud – picture ID’s, familiarity with election workers in your district and that they know the neighborhood you live and vote in. Your vote is locked in a local box rather than electrons travelling to Hartford far away. What happens if there’s a power outage? Or extended power outage? It is easy to make rules according to a world when everything goes right with technology, but we are lost when all we want is a candy bar at the grocery store but the register won’t work and management insists on tallying your candy bar with electronic inventory.

What about voter engagement? Again, it shouldn’t be the lowest common denominator for folks to vote in, nor should we take the leadership of our government as lightly as a Facebook survey or American Idol contestants. Just look at why I placed our Governor’s race in the sixth priority- low engagement.

5. Governor
Yes, this is sixth on the priority list.
While certainly important as the face of our government, the Governor has two key roles: Setting the tone for how state government interacts with you; and handling emergencies. I think few can argue that Governor Malloy has been a stellar emergency manager. He put together teams of people throughout the spectrum and demanded every town and entity with a role in emergency planning to hold drills. Many town managers interacted and have brought resources together during recent storms and drills. Last week Malloy ordered hospitals and EMS agencies to hold drills for Ebola and to be prepared. While that kind of planning takes longer than the seven days the Governor wanted, he has set the tone to make it a priority.
However, Malloy has set us on the wrong track for economic policy, and has eroded our confidence in maintaining an educational structure centered around students and family values. He got elected by placating to teachers, but then burdened them with unreasonable and onerous expectations. He is deaf to the flocks of moving trucks heading south.
On the flip side, Foley has not laid out any ambitious or bold plans to stop this emigration. His proposals are mediocre stop-gap: Holding spending flat, and a very subtle sales tax decrease. He seems to limit himself for two reasons: first, expecting a Democratic controlled legislature can only temper any reasonable expectation, and second, probably believes that anything further will be difficult to get elected in a blue state. To his detriment, he also favors tolls, a higher minimum wage, and often ducks answering straightforward questions in the name of “staying with the message” of his campaign.
Bolder proposals and red-flag warnings of a fiscal tsunami by petitioning candidate Joe Visconti have resonated with voters with a clearer honesty to keep some interest in this race.
I place this priority fifth because Foley’s plans will not immediately set Connecticut on the right track, Visconti’s poll numbers are low, and that whoever is elected really has to rely upon a change in the legislature to get anything done.

Its too bad that few are engaged in this race. I don’t blame the voters, but the candidates. In a Democratic marketplace of ideas, it is incumbent for our leaders to know what we need and present in ways we can understand and interact with.

6. Attorney General and State Comptroller
These two jobs are often behind the scenes but still important in setting the tone for legal enforcement of civil law as well as issuing honest reports of our state finances.
While both Republican candidates for these jobs would improve on the tone of these organizations, unfortunately their Democratic incumbents are already vast improvements over their predecessors.
George Jepsen for example, dismissed and dropped thousands of lawsuits initiated by Richard Blumenthal that did nothing but intimidate small and medium sized businesses in the state and tie up the state’s lawyers. The Attorney General’s office is essentially the state’s largest law firm and Jepsen has eliminated the former “shoot first, ask quesitons later” policies of Blumenthal. Kie Westby would further improve the business town however, and work to eliminate some of the more subtle influences of the office into the lives of families, DCF, and other state agencies the AG’s office is tasked to defend poor choices.
Sharon McLauchlin would assist in ridding the partisan and socially liberal policies of the Comptroller’s office. Kevin Lembo has been forthcoming and honest with his state budget projections – sometimes at slight odds with the Governor’s office and McLauchlin would take that even a step further.

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