Urban, Mullane face off in lunchtime debate

Candidates for the Connecticut House of Representatives 43rd District seat, incumbent Democrat Rep. Diana Urban, left, and Republican challenger Nicholas Mullane, take questions during The Day's Lunch with the Candidates debate at The Day's offices in New London on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016.   (Tim Cook/The Day)
Candidates for the Connecticut House of Representatives 43rd District seat, incumbent Democrat Rep. Diana Urban, left, and Republican challenger Nicholas Mullane, take questions during The Day's Lunch with the Candidates debate at The Day's offices in New London on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016. (Tim Cook/The Day)

Stonington — Democratic incumbent state Rep. Diana Urban and her Republican opponent, Nick Mullane, both of North Stonington, discussed issues — ranging from their support for a third casino in the state to which presidential candidate they will vote for — during a debate sponsored by The Day on Tuesday afternoon.

The hourlong debate was live-streamed on TheDay.com and will be available on the website through Election Day. It was the second debate this fall between the two candidates for the seat representing the 43rd District, which comprises Stonington and North Stonington.

Mullane, who as North Stonington's first selectman led the town's opposition to the Mashantucket Pequot tribe taking land into trust for a casino, said he would support the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes' cooperative effort to build a third casino in northern Connecticut to offset the impact of a casino being built in Springfield, Mass. While he said he hates gambling, Mullane said the state has to preserve the revenue stream coming from casinos.

He suggested, however, that the state study whether other entities could provide more revenue for the state instead of just letting the tribes build a third venue.

Urban opposes a third casino, saying that as an economist she realizes casinos “do not produce anything” and are a strain on local resources. She told Mullane that instead of fighting the Mashantuckets, he should have worked with them like the Town of Montville did to get annual impact payments and possibly access to their equipment and resources.

Urban said she supports a state law requiring municipalities and the state to pay prevailing wages on projects in excess of $400,000, saying it ensures quality work and provides families with a salary they can live on.

Mullane, though, would like to see it repealed, saying he’s seen prevailing wage projects in his town run into problems. In addition, he said the money municipalities could save by paying cheaper wages could then be spent on other needed projects, which in turn would provide work for more firms.

In response to a criticism from Urban about a comment Mullane made at the previous debate, that he thinks the state should be run like North Stonington — which still has not approved a municipal budget and has so far failed to file the necessary paperwork to obtain $300,000 she secured in state aid for the emergency services building project — Mullane said the town is in good shape with a fund balance of 11 percent or $2.1 million, roads in good condition and pension costs fully funded.

But Urban pointed to the schools, which she said are not in good shape because of maintenance being deferred to keep taxes low. But Mullane said the aging schools, which soon will undergo a $38.5 million renovation, are safe. Mullane acknowledged the town has “stumbled” a few times as it redesigns the emergency services project to fit the approved budget but is now on track.

Responding to Mullane’s criticism that she is too involved in issues involving animals instead of working on the state budget and business climate, Urban said she introduced a bill banning sale of ivory and rhinoceros horns in the state because the animals are endangered and proceeds are used to fund terrorism.

In addition, she said her approved bill that mandates cross-reporting of animal cruelty and domestic and child abuse between state agencies already has helped state officials to intervene in cases where animal cruelty is an indicator or predictor of domestic abuse and violence.

“I’m not just saying, ‘Stop being cruel to animals,’ but what does it mean?” she said. “I’m talking policy. How do we interrupt the cycle of violence?”

As for their presidential choices, Mullane said this is the most disappointing campaign he has ever seen and would reluctantly be voting for Donald Trump, whom he predicted would be a one-term president if elected.

He added that if Trump is elected, “maybe the rest of the politicians will straighten out and respond to people."

Urban said that while Trump is appealing to working-class voters who feel disenfranchised, he is not fit to be president. While Clinton would not be her first choice to be the country’s first female president and seems like “a bit of a warmonger,” Urban said she is voting for Clinton because of her “incredible experience" and understanding of “how things work in Washington.”

Mullane said that many of the state’s problems can be solved by addressing the state’s budget problems and poor business climate, something he said Urban is not doing. He added the legislature has to cut spending and it will be painful. Urban responded saying she has supported bills that require all new regulations to be examined for their impact on small businesses, implemented generally accepted accounting principles for the state budget and results-based budgeting in some areas.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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