Ryan faces Moore again in 139th

The places have changed, but the faces remain the same.

In a 2010 revisit, incumbent Democrat Kevin Ryan will try to fend off Republican challenger Leon Moore for the 139th House District, which has undergone redistricting changes since the last election. The district still covers part of Montville and all of Bozrah but no longer will it cover Franklin and Lebanon. Instead, the winner will also represent residents of a middle sliver of Norwich.

Aside from meeting in the head-to-head election two years ago, the candidates participated in two forums this campaign season, one in Norwich and one in Montville, which gave them each a chance to express their positions. In interviews last week, each stood by the things they had said at those public events.

Moore, who retired in 2009 after serving as a sonar analyst in the U.S. Navy, admitted to having little public office experience. He ran last year for the Montville Town Council and challenged Ryan in 2010 but has never held an elected position.

"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 during the Montville forum earlier this month.

Ryan has held office for 20 years, serving 10 terms in the state legislature.

When he first ran two years ago, Moore said Ryan's experience intimidated him and may have negatively influenced the first run, which Moore now sees as a learning experience. Still, presuming he's elected, Moore admitted to a "steep learning curve" as he gets comfortable.

"I can't let that get me down to where I'm going to give up on the campaign or the people of my area and Connecticut because Kevin is who he is, he's been there for 20 years, and if I had been there for 20 years, I'd be just as capable as he is," Moore said.

While he believes jobs and education should be on the forefront of the state legislature's agenda, Moore said repeating those mantras is "beating a dead horse." Instead, in a way to differentiate himself from the crowd, Moore has come up with something he called a "pet project" he'd work to institute for people receiving welfare or unemployment benefits.

The program would require volunteer service at a non-profit organization for those able-bodied people receiving benefits, as a way to contribute to society, Moore said.

"It could be very beneficial to non profits and organizations in the area," he said. "In my opinion, it would give those individuals a sense of accomplishment, maybe. They'd be contributing something to the state or the community instead of sitting at home waiting for a job to start up."

Ryan, a veteran physics professor of 32 years at the University of New Haven, pointed to his experience in the legislature as one of his strong suits. He's also owned a small business and served on Montville's Board of Education.

"My experience is just valuable in being able to assess the needs of the district," Ryan said. "I think that's one of my fortes, helping people with problems when they have them with the state government."

During his 20 years in the legislature, Ryan said the complexion of the district has changed, from more rural to more urban and commercial. Agriculture has always been something he's worked for, which won't change despite the redistricting, Ryan said. But commercial aspects and economic development is something he's embraced.

His focus remains on education, jobs and the economy and with the recent news that the Mohegan Sun Casino plans to lay off 300 employees, Ryan said it's more important than ever to continue fighting for his district and to implement policies that work. Retraining workers and funneling money into youth education systems are two ways of doing that, he said.

"I think I've served the district well in it's various (forms)," Ryan said. "Constituent service is my strongest point, it's very rewarding and I would like to continue serving the people of the 139th district."

s.goldstein@theday.com

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