Dean, Jepsen differ on issues in AG race

In an election where there are stark differences between some candidates, the race for attorney general stands out.

Republican Martha Dean, a 22-year lawyer from Avon, is running a second time for the office. George Jepsen, former state Senate majority leader and Democratic Party chairman, a lawyer for 26 years, is her opponent.

The attorney general’s office, which has 185 lawyers, disposes of 54,000 cases a year, with 25,000 of them child support cases, 14,000 child advocacy, 9,000 tax collection suits and hundreds more with insurance companies over denial of services.

Between 2006 and 2010, it recovered more than $1 billion in support payments to families and another $243 million in state reimbursements.

Dean says the office should look into bringing in an outside agency to do the work of collecting from dead-beat dads and add 10 percent to cover the cost of collection, rather than using “high-priced” staff.

Jepsen opposes that, fearing the collection fees will be subtracted from the bottom line owed to parents, cheating them out of what they’re due.

Dean generally thinks the office has engaged in too many “frivolous” lawsuits against businesses, and she would drop many of the 36,000 backlogged cases and put more resources on the important suits.

“This is the part of the job where you defend the broad public interest and it is where Martha and I disagree,” Jepsen said.

Like Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Jepsen said he would have sued the tobacco companies for lying about the health dangers of smoking and for pitching their products to children, an action that is bringing billions to Connecticut. He said he supports Blumenthal’s suit against the coal-burning plants in the Midwest, which curbed air pollution drifting to the state, as well as Blumenthal’s actions against social networking sites to curb sexual predators.

Dean said she would not have supported those suits, and saw the tobacco suit as particularly egregious, saying it was a scheme concocted by trial lawyers and AGs around the country who brought “tobacco to its knees without a judge hearing the case.”

The Republican candidate has promised to join the 20 states challenging the requirement of health care reform that citizens buy insurance, which she says violates the 10th Amendment and the commerce clause of the Constitution.

Jepsen said he disagrees with her, and while he feels health reform can be improved generally, he does not take issue with this aspect.

Dean frames her campaign as “returning common sense to the AG’s office, and that is what is going to allow law-abiding citizens and businesses to thrive again.”

Several positions by Dean have raised eyebrows, including her statement that “as your attorney general, I will advocate firearms training for boys and girls in schools, in Scouts, at camp and elsewhere. We teach sex education in school, yet we omit the most basic skill needed to exercise fundamental constitutional rights.”

Dean said recently she favors gun safety training as a corollary to the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

She also told the Connecticut Citizens Defense League that the right to free speech needs to be backed up by arms “if our government becomes as tyrannical and unjust as King George was to the Colonists.”

Jepsen has characterized her views as “outside the cultural mainstream of Connecticut.”

A last-minute suit brought by Dean challenging Jepsen’s experience as a litigator is in Superior Court, with a possible decision by Tuesday on whether she has standing, although no one expects the attorney general election to be held up.

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