Montville — The candidates for the 42nd and 139th House districts debated job creation, the state deficit and local issues during a forum hosted by The Day Wednesday evening at Montville High School.
Democrat Timothy Bowles and Republican Mike France are running in the 42nd District of Preston, parts of Montville and most of Ledyard. Republican Leon Moore is challenging Democratic incumbent Kevin Ryan in the 139th District, which covers parts of Norwich and Montville and all of Bozrah.
Moore, who is challenging Ryan for the second time in two elections, said he does not have a lot of political experience but is a family man devoted to his community. A Navy retiree, Moore said he serves as an emergency medical technician in the Oakdale Fire Department and is a Rotary Club and VFW member.
"I'm not a polished candidate, but after 20 years in the Navy, I thought it was time to try something different, so I decided to serve the community in a different way," Moore said.
Ryan, a 10-term incumbent in the state legislature, said he formerly served as a member of Montville's Board of Education and teaches physics at the University of New Haven.
"I've been there to listen to the constituents," he said.
France, in the 42nd district, serves as a Ledyard town councilor and is running to send a "principled leader to Hartford," he said.
Bowles, a Preston alpaca farmer, said he's lived in the area for 35 years. He is the former chairman of the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, has served on the town's Planning and Zoning Commission and as an emergency medical technician with the town's fire department, and is in his fourth year as a Preston selectman.
The candidates clashed fairly cleanly along party lines, setting the stage in the first question concerning how the state dealt with its $3.6 billion deficit in the beginning of the legislative session.
Ryan defended the "difficult decisions" legislators made in budget cuts and revenue increases, while Bowles said many of those decisions were necessary evils to cover a gap created by previous administrations.
"I think nobody was happy," Bowles said. "I think we continue to have tough times. We will have to continue to resort to that kind of strategy to deal with the economic problems that we have."
But Moore and France lamented tax increases and areas of increased spending.
"Stop raising taxes if we can and wait for the economy to improve, and hold down the spending so we're not taxing the state again," Moore said.
France said that what "probably was a fairly equitable distribution" of spending cuts did not make up for how legislators chose to fill the deficit hole, calling the creation of new taxes a "dishonest" way for the legislature to deal with the public.
In addressing the unemployment rate of the state, recently tacked at 9 percent, candidates had some different ideas.
Bowles specifically proposed the creation of a clean energy center at the site of the former Norwich Hospital property, in which a public-private partnership with the University of Connecticut and Yale University would establish a renewable energy cluster of research and development, light manufacturing of green technologies and job training.
France blamed unemployment on state tax policy, saying "unpredictable" taxes have stymied business growth and hiring as small businesses cannot predict their expenses from year to year.
Ryan emphasized the need to maintain job training programs. And Moore said he would like to see more accountability in unemployment services, including stricter requirements for receiving unemployment checks, such as mandated volunteer work, in order to help job-seekers bolster their resumes.