Spurious scandal

File this political attack under grasping at straws using a straw man.

Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. charged this week that the decision of the Stillman family to buy a condo in Boynton Beach, Fla. is evidence that Sen. Andrea Stillman, a Democrat, "intends to flee the state of Connecticut to avoid the numerous state and federal taxes she helped to impose."

The Stillmans, acting through a family trust, purchased the condo for $85,000 in June 2011. A couple of months later Sen. Stillman and husband Howard Stillman finalized the sale of the family's Bank Street, New London business, J. Solomon Inc. office supply store.

People retired from running a business tend to have a bit more leisure time, even those who are part-time state legislators. Perhaps the Stillmans, taking advantage of the deflated real estate market in Florida, saw the chance to buy a vacation place? How scandalous! And in fact that is how Sen. Stillman says she is using the condo, most recently spending a couple of weeks there in June after the special session ended.

Sen. Stillman's opponent in the 20th Senatorial District race, Republican Mike Doyle, first raised this canard at the candidates' Sept. 5 debate sponsored by The Day at the New London Senior Center.

In his Wednesday press release Mr. Labriola fired off a series of demands - that the incumbent senator prove that she lives in the state for more than half the year; that she commit to remaining in Connecticut full time while in the legislature; and promise not to use the Florida property to escape any Connecticut taxes.

Before blustering about "Sen. Stillman's questionable conduct" exemplifying a "culture of corruption," the burden rests with Mr. Labriola to provide evidence that she is living outside the state, has plans to relocate while in office or is using the Florida property to duck Connecticut taxes.

Short of such evidence, the Stillmans are guilty only of buying property with their hard-earned money. Since when were Republicans against that?

If Mr. Doyle and his surrogate, Mr. Labriola, want to attack the incumbent for her support of the large tax increases passed by the Democratic majority that is certainly fair game. But they should spare voters the bogus attacks until they have something to back the charges.

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