The race for the 18th District State Senate seat pits a three-term Democrat who prides himself on being able to work with senators across the aisle against a Griswold attorney who has numerous academic degrees, rides a Harley-Davidson and calls herself a proud, gun-owning NRA member.
The incumbent, Andrew Maynard of Stonington, said he is running again because having been in Hartford six years, he is still committed to changing a system that needs to be changed.
Referring to a grant he obtained in his last term to prevent local people from becoming homeless and another for a health center at Pawcatuck Middle School, Maynard said those are things that someone with more seniority such as himself can get accomplished.
"As a member of the majority you have a better chance of success with these things. It's not something I could have done six years ago," said Maynard, who chairs the Transportation Committee and is the vice chairman of the Environment Committee. "I bring a lot of working knowledge of the process and can make things happen now."
His opponent, Theresa Madonna of Griswold, said that as an attorney, college professor and a health care administrator, she has always helped one person at a time.
"That's the way I've lived my life. But I realized the problems are more complex and have to be fixed at the policy level," she said about her decision to run.
"I have experience in health care, education and law, the three key components in being a good senator," she said.
Madonna, who served two years on the Griswold Board of Selectmen and eight on the town's school board, said Maynard is part of the one-party leadership in Hartford, something she said does not result in good decisions.
"It's time to have better discussions about fiscal policy, and we can do that by rebalancing Hartford," she said. "We need a louder voice for fiscal conservatism. That's why I stepped up to run this year."
Maynard stressed that he's not "a party hack" who always votes with Democrats.
"I've been known to step off the reservation with my party when it's something I believe in," he said.
"There's not enough time in the day to fight with the other party. There's too much to get done," said Maynard, who added that some of his closest friends in the legislature are Republicans. "We don't always agree, but I can help them get something done and they can help me get something done that I couldn't do on my own."
But Madonna said Maynard votes with his party most of the time and charged that he "caved' last year when his party pressured him to support the proposed budget and the largest tax hike in state history.
"Talk to anyone in the district and they say 'What was he thinking? That's not what we wanted,'" Madonna said, "We needed someone to stand up for this district."
Two years ago, in a race that attracted national attention for its civility, Maynard defeated another Griswold attorney, Stuart Norman, Coincidentally, Madonna now shares the building where Norman's office is located in Jewett City.
By the time the campaign is complete, voters in the 18th District will have had a lot of chances to get to know the two candidates and where they stand on the issues as they will have appeared in one forum and four debates. The 18th District comprises Griswold, Groton, North Stonington, Plainfield, Preston, Sterling, Stonington and Voluntown.
Maynard said that over the past two years, much of the attention of legislators has been focused on dealing with the state budget and deficit.
"For some of us it was a challenging time, but one we relished it because we finally took a look at how we spent money," he said, adding that party caucuses looked at savings in each department.
Maynard said there is "hell of a lot of waste" in state government, but he said it isn't in "big slabs of fat" that can be easily cut.
"Its marbleized in every part of the structure," he said.
Maynard said that over the past two years he helped protect the state's commercial marina and aviation industries from new taxes that threatened to force businesses to neighboring states.
As head of the transportation committee, he said the creation of the Connecticut Airport Authority will make Bradley International Airport more competitive along with small regional airports such as Groton-New London.
Maynard also supports having the state fund 100 percent of special education costs so a town is not affected when special education students needing costly education move in.
He also said the state's unfunded liabilities are a ticking time bomb that have to be addressed. He said another focus for him is lowering the cost of doing business in the state, especially when it comes to energy.
Maynard said he has been able to bring state funding back to the region for projects ranging from improvements at the Naval Submarine Base to repairs to Thames Street in Groton and the Griswold Senior Center.
Maynard said one of the proudest achievements of his last term was getting a $250,000 grant for a program designed to prevent people from falling into homelessness. He said such a program pays for itself many times over because families stay together, students stay in school and the need for chronic long- term assistance is avoided.
Madonna, who has earned two master's degrees and a doctorate in addition to her law degree, said that if she is elected she would like to create incentives for cities, towns and school systems to be more efficient. She said that when the state mandates that towns implement programs there should be a sunset provision to make sure they are achieving their purpose.
"I'm not advocating cutting programs. I'm advocating using money in a smart way," she said. "I'm a fiscal conservative and I'm not afraid to stand up for that."
Madonna, whose campaign slogan is "If I win, you win," said she would work to get rid of some of the 77 new tax increases that were part of the current state budget and lessen regulations and controls on small business. She said that when she opened her one-person law office she got hit with $1,000 in state fees before she even had a client.
In announcing one of her debates with Maynard, Madonna said, "I am confident that voters will see a clear difference between how I believe government should be run and how my opponent has voted during his six years in office. It's very important for the people of the 18th to realize they have a clear choice on November 6th, and I believe that I have the right plan to move Connecticut forward by reducing spending, lowering taxes, and promoting jobs."
She also opposed mandatory sick leave policy for small businesses because she said employers should have the flexibility to make that decision.
With her interest in shooting, she said she would also work to allow people to hunt on private property on Sunday, something that is now prohibited.
She also participated in the annual Reason to Ride motorcycle run to raise money for needy veterans.