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Lori Hopkins-Cavanagh of New London considers herself many things: a real estate broker, a radio show host, a melded family's mother of four, a proud member of the National Rifle Association, a constitutional conservative, an entrepreneur, a small business owner and a former weather anchor.
Now she wants to add "congresswoman" to that list.
The 54-year-old registered Libertarian said she was approached by the state Republican party and asked to run for Congress after they heard from people impressed by her radio show.
She secured the Republican nomination and is challenging four-term Democrat Rep. Joe Courtney for the Second District seat with a campaign that, so far, is largely self-financed.
Her southern campaign headquarters - she also has a location in Vernon - is a mostly empty room in Uncasville's Gristmill Plaza: a few tables with campaign literature, two computers against the back wall, a pair of armchairs. A picture of Hopkins-Cavanagh and a sign supporting the Connecticut Citizens Defense League hang in the windows. A "Don't Tread on Me" flag and red, white and blue trim adorn the walls.
As she sat in one of the armchairs Thursday, Hopkins-Cavanagh discussed her position on issues ranging from education to the Export-Import bank to the economy.
A common theme ties her opinions together: The second district, she says, needs less government regulation and a stronger vision.
"I'm a very creative person. I'm an entrepreneur … I have a long-term solution for Connecticut," said Hopkins-Cavanagh, who started her own advertising business at age 25 "without a penny of government subsidy."
"We need problem-solvers in DC," she added, and Courtney "is paid a lot of money to not solve problems."
Hopkins-Cavanagh believes the congressman is beholden to special interests and never questions the administration of President Barack Obama.
She said her innovative ideas include an alternative to congested highways or Amtrak - which she said is "sucking the life out of the taxpayer"- for people traveling between Boston and New York City.
She'd like to see a "state-of-the-art" high-speed ferry linking the two cities. By putting manufacturing in cities like New London, New Haven and Bridgeport and adding stops in some coastal Connecticut towns, Hopkins-Cavanagh believes the plan would "revitalize the inner cities."
"We're the shipbuilding capital of the world," she said. "We need small business developing new industry with highly skilled technical workers. We can do that, but we need a vision."
Hopkins-Cavanagh said the plan would tie into her views on reforming the Export-Import Bank, which helps finance the export of U.S. goods. According to the Ex-Im Bank's website, nearly 90 percent of the organization's loan, guarantee and insurance authorizations went to small businesses in 2013.
But Hopkins-Cavanagh is quick to point out that a vast amount of the bank's actual money goes to one company: Boeing.
The idea is to help Boeing compete with international companies like Airbus. But Hopkins-Cavanagh said that, ideally, a profitable company like Boeing shouldn't get a cent of Ex-Im money.
She'd like to see the bank's loan structure turned "upside down," allowing small businesses to get "the cake" from the Ex-Im Bank, rather than "the crumbs." Those small businesses could include, said Hopkins-Cavanagh, a Connecticut-based company that exports high-speed ferries.
Hopkins-Cavanagh said small businesses are so important because they help create ladders of opportunity for the working and middle classes--ladders that are disappearing in Connecticut under excessive taxation and regulation, she said.
As a real estate broker during difficult times for the housing market, Hopkins-Cavanagh said she's watched "nothing but suffering for the past eight years. And it's disgusting."
She said she regularly fields calls from people and listens to their life stories--learning about how they lost their jobs and are now on the verge of losing their homes.
"That's what the Second District is," she said. "The housing market is so incredibly depressed and so many people are barely holding on."
She believes Courtney "has not done anything to bring prosperity" to the Second District, creating a culture of "haves and have-nots."
And with welfare benefits, "you do pretty well if you're poor in Connecticut. You don't hurt," said Hopkins-Cavanagh.
She said this results in the state "attracting - because of its generosity - a large number of people who are poor or working poor or illegal."
Hopkins-Cavanagh insists that she speaks her mind because voters want to see real people.
She also opposes common core standards saying the math isn't learnable, the testing isn't productive and "a teacher should not be put into a mold." She supports a voucher system because she doesn't believe "every school is right for every child."
She also opposes stricter gun control.
"In Chicago, young men have illegal guns and are killing each other, and it has to do with drug trafficking and other issues," she said, "but it certainly doesn't have anything to do with my ability to defend myself as a woman."
Gun violence in the United States is a cultural issue that has to do with "the breakdown in our inner cities," the middle class shrinking, and family values disappearing, she said. It doesn't, she added, have anything to do with law-abiding citizens.
"I want to identify the real problems, and find the real solutions to those problems," she said.
Hopkins-Cavanagh wasn't ready to discuss the real solution to gun violence on Sunday.
"I can't address that question appropriately in this discussion," she said but did have some parting words on the topic.
"Nobody has the right to change the constitution to accomplish their goals," she said vehemently.