Published August 29. 2012 8:00PM Updated August 30. 2012 12:56PM
Tim Martin/The Day
State 41st Rep. candidates Elissa Wright (D), left, and Harry Watson (R) participate in a candidate forum presented by The Day at the Groton Public Library Wednesday, August 29, 2012.
Groton — More than 60 people gathered at the Groton Public Library Wednesday night to listen to six candidates running for the General Assembly in November discuss their positions on taxes, Pfizer, education, the state's debt and other issues.
The candidates' forum was the first in a series being sponsored by The Day across the region between now and Election Day. The forum can be viewed on www.theday.com and www.groton-ct.gov/library. Both Comcast and Thames Valley Communications will be airing the forum.
Participating in the first hour of the forum were the candidates for the 40th House District: Democratic incumbent Edward Moukawsher and Republican challenger Andrew Lavery. The 40th district comprises the northern section of Groton and Gales Ferry.
Also participating were the two candidates for the 41st House District, which comprises sections of Groton and New London: Democratic incumbent Elissa Wright and Republican challenger Harry Watson, a former town mayor.
In response to questions submitted by the audience and posed to the candidates by Day Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Lavery pledged to vote against any new tax increase. The other three candidates declined to take a pledge of no new taxes, but Moukawsher said he does not intend to increase taxes.
In his closing statement, Watson said that while he respects Wright and her efforts, the town "has not been on her client list." She works for her party in Hartford, he said.
Wright, though, said she was proud of her efforts to promote strong schools, a healthy environment and helping the state recover from the worst recession in 80 years.
In response to questions about what could be done to keep Pfizer from continuing to decrease its operation here, Lavery said the state tax structure was not favorable for businesses.
He would work to repeal 77 taxes implemented by the Malloy administration, he said. But Moukawsher and Wright said the state gave Pfizer many millions of dollars in tax breaks and financial assistance.
'On the edge of a financial cliff'
The two candidates for the 18th Senate District, Democratic incumbent Andrew Maynard of Stonington and Republican challenger Theresa Madonna of Griswold, participated in the second half of the forum. They discussed many of the same issues as the representatives, as well as tort reform, gun control, and small business and infrastructure needs.
Both Maynard and Madonna agreed the state spends too much.
"It's very simple. If we stop the spending, we'll be able to relieve the tax burden on residents," Madonna said.
She said the state was "on the edge of a financial cliff."
Maynard said he consistently opposes new programs and has gone against his party and opposed new burdens on businesses. But he said 80 percent of the state budget is comprised of spending on issues such as health care and housing for seniors, education and employees' insurance and pension.
"Saying 'cut spending' is simple, but it is a complex issue," he said. "People say we should run government like a business. They mean cut. But businesses also invest."
Maynard said the state needs to invest in its aging infrastructure and highways.
In responding to questions about gun violence, both candidates said they did not favor additional gun laws. Madonna said inmates have to be better prepared for release, while Maynard said more needs to be done in terms of mental health treatment.