Bowles defends his war-era status in battle with Somers over campaign funding

Democrat Timothy Bowles attacked Republican opponent Heather Somers on Thursday for sending campaign funds out of state, saying "actions speak louder than words" and that he has spent all of his state-allocated funds in Connecticut.

The two are battling to win the 18th District state Senate seat representing constituents in Groton, Stonington, North Stonington, Preston, Griswold, Plainfield, Voluntown and Sterling.

The attack from Bowles comes in the wake of Somers' complaints that her opponent has hired "high-priced Hartford consultants" and her repeated criticisms of Bowles' campaign, which is being run by Manchester-based Vinci Group.

While Somers did not directly respond to the criticism of her use of out-of-state consultants and services, she did fire back at Bowles on a number of fronts, including a new attack, saying, "Tim Bowles has refused to come clean with veterans in our district about the circumstances of his avoidance of service during the Vietnam War."

The issue of Vietnam was first raised by the author of a letter to the editor in September. When asked by The Day about it, Bowles said in 1968 he received a college deferment after he had registered for the draft, but in 1970, gave up that deferment because he believed it was a privilege not afforded to his friends who grew up in blue-collar homes.

"It felt to me absolutely wrong and indefensible that because you could go to college, that you could get a college deferment," said Bowles. "And I saw a lot of people in the college that I went to (and) that was really the main reason they were there."

"That was the easiest way of getting out of going to war," he said.

Bowles said when he gave up his deferment, he was given 1AO status — a classification for those who object to participating as combatants, but whose convictions permit them to serve in the military in a noncombatant status.

"So I was willing to put on a uniform and serve my country but I was not willing to carry a gun," Bowles said, and added that by that time, the war was winding down and he was never called to serve.

In his attack on Somers' campaign spending that set off the latest skirmish, Bowles said: "Unlike my opponent, I've made a conscious decision to keep taxpayers funds in Connecticut, going to Connecticut workers and small businesses. I'm interested in helping Connecticut's economy, not lining the pockets of high-priced Washington, D.C., political consultants. All of my public finance grant has gone back to helping Connecticut's economy. Using taxpayer money to outsource Connecticut jobs is yet another case of Somers' mismanagement of taxpayer dollars and inability to help our state create jobs."

The Bowles campaign, examining state campaign financing reporting information, denounced Somers for spending more than $45,000 of her $95,000 Citizens Election Program funding "on political media firms, consulting companies and consultants out of state," while Bowles "keeps all of his taxpayer funds going to local, Connecticut businesses."

A similar examination of the Bowles' campaign spending report — he also received about $95,000 — shows that more than $90,000 of his CEP funds have been paid to The Vinci Group.

Somers defended her campaign, saying she hasn't employed a full-time campaign manager and is spending her time "talking to voters at events, at small gatherings, at small businesses and at the over 15,000 doors I have knocked across the 18th District."

"While I spend my time talking to voters, knocking on their doors, hearing their concerns and talking about solutions to the issues they care about, it's clear my opponent spends his days thinking up ever more outrageous false attacks to put in mail pieces paid for by Hartford lobbyists and in press releases," she said.

"Tim Bowles has proven totally incapable of offering even one realistic idea to save our state or help struggling Connecticut families," she said.

Bowles hit back in his news release.

"Heather Somers' choice to consciously outsource her campaign management, media and mail to Washington firms and Republican insiders shows a deep and continued disregard for the working people of our state," he said. "Her hypocritical actions provide a telling story: do as I say, not as I do. ..."

a.baldelli@theday.com  

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