Close call in 42nd

Voters in the 42nd House District have the good fortune of having to make their choice among two strong and experienced candidates. Democrat Timothy R. Bowles, a retired planning analyst, is a Preston selectman with some innovative ideas for the development of the former Norwich Hospital property. Republican Mike France is a member of the Ledyard Town Council, where as Finance Committee chairman he has shown the ability to balance fiscal prudence with the need to provide essential services.

The two are competing to replace a lawmaker we much respect, Rep. Tom Reynolds, a fiscal moderate and pragmatic politician who left the seat to enter the Democratic primary for state Senate, falling short in that attempt. The district includes Ledyard, Preston and parts of Montville.

There is a clear ideological divide between these opponents. Mr. Bowles, 62, definitely sees a larger role for government in using stimulus programs to drive economic growth, and in assuring a strong human services safety net, than does Mr. France, who is 49. In contrast, Mr. France, who settled in the area after a 20-year Navy career, sees a state government that is trying to do too much, crowding out the private sector in the process and inhibiting job growth. While acknowledging tax increases were necessary to address the state's fiscal crisis, they were too high and too many, and there should have been no increase in state spending, he contends.

This is the classic debate Hartford needs to have, one that could benefit from greater political balance in a legislature now dominated by Democrats, who even more so dominate the local delegation.

Yet neither of these men strikes us ideologues. Both, in their local offices, have shown willingness to compromise and work in a bipartisan fashion. However the race turns out, we want to see Mr. Bowles idea for a "Clean Energy Center," promoting and utilizing renewable energy sources, get serious attention as a component of the Norwich Hospital redevelopment effort. And Mr. France's emphasis on promoting economic diversity in the region is advice anyone elected should heed.

In a close decision, and in the interest of promoting greater political diversity in the legislature, The Day endorses Mike France in the 42nd House District.

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