Strong candidates in 18th Senate District

Voters in the state's 18th Senate District face a difficult choice between two strong candidates, Republican challenger Theresa Madonna of Griswold and incumbent Democrat Sen. Andrew Maynard of Stonington. The candidates' homes bookend the large Senate district of Stonington, Groton, North Stonington, Plainfield, Preston, Sterling, Voluntown and Griswold.

The Day has endorsed both candidates in the past, Mrs. Madonna in her unsuccessful run for first selectman in Griswold and Sen. Maynard in his Senate campaigns. Both have a strong grasp of the issues confronting the state, moderate political temperaments, and backgrounds that make them well capable of representing the district. If we could shift the candidates around like pieces on a game board, we'd slide Mrs. Madonna over to a district with a weaker incumbent.

Mrs. Madonna, 55, is a lawyer, former Griswold selectman and Board of Education member. The GOP candidate contends the governor's solution to the state fiscal crisis, an approach Sen. Maynard backed, relied too heavily on a wide variety of new and increased taxes. That approach, along with hikes in various service fees, has been particularly bad for small businesses, the challenger contends.

Yet Mrs. Madonna remains disinclined to say what government programs she would cut. In fact, Mrs. Madonna is clearer about what she will protect. She is a strong proponent of public education and investing in it. Mrs. Madonna also vows to protect the social safety net and the state-funded nonprofits that help provide it. Yet the legislature will have to make tough decisions to cut or reduce programs if Mrs. Madonna truly expects to "roll back the 77 new tax and fee hikes that were put into effect in 2011."

More realistically, Mrs. Madonna would find herself as part of a Republican minority, with little chance to impose any large-scale spending reductions or tax cuts. She would, however, be a voice for fiscal prudency and protection of small businesses, yet practical enough to know she has to find common ground with the likely Democratic majority and her colleagues from southeastern Connecticut.

We have no concern about Mrs. Madonna's ability to serve as a state senator and protect the interests of her district. On the other hand, we see no reason to deny the incumbent our endorsement.

Sen. Maynard, 50, who is seeking a fourth term, has served his district well. The senator has been accessible to local elected leaders and strong on constituent service. During the administration of former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, when his own Democratic Party seemed too willing to enter into deals with the governor to pass irresponsible budgets laden with gimmicks, Sen. Maynard was a voice demanding fiscal honesty.

The senator was instrumental in fighting for $50 million in state bonding that the state has begun to use to help with improvements at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, a unique state-federal partnership that should help protect the base from future rounds of base closings. He has successfully pursued funding to assist Preston in its efforts to clean up and redevelop the former Norwich Hospital property. Sen. Maynard has fought for tourism dollars and helped shepherd Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's $15 million tourism promotion campaign, critical to the district's tourism industry, through the Senate.

His position as deputy majority leader and chairman of the Transportation Committee could be critical in getting state help for adding commuter service and improving freight capabilities along the Central Rail Corridor, expanding use of Groton-New London Airport, and effectively utilizing the Port of New London.

The Day endorses Sen. Andrew Maynard for re-election.

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