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New London - State Rep. Ernest Hewett, who is seeking a fifth term representing the 39th District, has had the same constituent office in the city since 2005, after he was first elected to state office - a corner table at the Dunkin' Donuts on Broad Street.
"It's a beautiful thing," Hewett said of the space in the coffee shop where everyone knows to find him. The former New London city councilor who also served one year as ceremonial mayor has been involved in the community for nearly 20 years. His first project was cleaning up a hotel across from his house at 29 Colman St. that had been overun with drugs and prostitution.
Last week, he was at the New London Fall Food Stroll, handing out cider and pretzels.
"They can't say they only see me during the election. I'm everywhere. I'm like a Visa card," he said.
Challenging the incumbent is Republican Daniel Docker, who is endorsed by the Republican Town Committee but knows he is facing an uphill battle in the New London district where Democrats outnumber Republicans 5 to 1.
"I'm not under any illusions as to how successful I'll be,'' he said. But Docker, of 17 Center St., is running a shoestring campaign, going door to door and printing up his own fliers, because he wants the residents of the city's first and second voting districts to have a choice Nov. 6.
Hewett, who has raised about $32,000, including a $26,000 state grant from the Citizens' Election Program, said if he is returned to Hartford, he wants to beef up a new law he helped pass that requires mandatory DNA testing on repeat felons. He would like to see the law require the testing - which he said can track down criminals as well as free those who are wrongfully imprisoned - on all felons.
He also wants to do something for the country's veterans. He wants to create a new law that would make an assault on a homeless person a hate crime.
"The biggest growing population right now of homeless people is veterans,'' he said, adding the state must protect those who served in the military. "The only reason to attack or beat up a homeless person must be a tremendous amount of hate."
Docker has raised less than $500 for his campaign and had to decline about $26,000 in state grant money because he didn't raise enough money to qualify for it. During an appearance on 94.9 News Now radio in Ledyard, Docker said he volunteered to run when no one else in his party would.
"So you are a one-man show?'' asked Mark Sullivan, host of "The Home Stretch" talk show.
"Tru dat,'' Docker said.
This is Docker's third attempt at elected office. He ran for City Council last year and lost, and he unsuccessfully challenged state Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, for her 20th District seat two years ago.
Government should not be spending money it doesn't have, he said. He proudly points to the fact that he has not paid any interest on his Visa card in 20 years.
"We have to live within our means,'' he said.
He knows his politics are to the right of center. He said he's been referred to as the Glenn Beck of southeastern Connecticut, referring to the ultraconservative political pundit. "But without the conspiracy theories,'' he said.
He said he'd like the state to eliminate nuisance regulations and fees, which cost more to administer than is collected. Outsourcing some government functions and consolidating departments could also save money, he said.