Malone reflects on his upset election loss

Norwich - State Rep. Jack Malone was disappointed at his defeat Tuesday night in the only surprise finish of the local elections, but he said Wednesday he isn't disappointed in any aspect of his 14 years representing the 47th District in Hartford.

Malone, 52, was defeated by freshman Norwich Alderman Christopher Coutu, a Republican, Tuesday in the district that covers part of Norwich and the towns of Scotland, Sprague and Canterbury. Coutu's energetic, aggressive campaign paid off with a rare Republican victory in eastern Connecticut.

”I'm not disappointed in any of it,” Malone said of his seven terms in the General Assembly. “It's all about trying to make the lives of people in the state and the district better. You do your best and it's what your tenure is marked as.”

Malone, executive director of the private, nonprofit Southeast Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, held key positions on the powerful Appropriations Committee, which helped obtain state grants and stable funding for the district's towns, he said. He also served as chairman of the Appropriations Committee's Health and Hospitals Subcommittee.

State Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, whose district includes Norwich, championed the spread of school-based health centers throughout the region, including Norwich schools. She said Malone was instrumental in getting state funding for construction and operation.

”When I asked him for something in Appropriations, he was always willing to listen and do what he could to help,” Prague said.

Malone said Wednesday that cities and towns saw “historic increases” in aid in recent years, with increases in education grants and other funding.

”It's not that it was dumping money onto the towns, because that's not a good practice either,” Malone said. “…The towns always wanted much more, but if you didn't have to explain why they were getting cut, the job was much easier.”

Malone said Coutu might find himself in the latter position in the coming budget year, with a projected budget deficit of about $1 billion even if state officials use the entire so-called rainy day fund to reduce the deficit.

Malone finds it shameful that some 400,000 people in Connecticut have no health insurance. He strongly supported extending health coverage, but said the next legislature might have to put that aside for now. Towns hurting for revenue will turn to the state for property tax relief next year.

”Chris Coutu's got his work cut out for him,” Malone said. “It's going to be a difficult year.”

Coutu said he looks forward to the challenge. A licensed financial adviser, Coutu hopes to receive committee assignments that would allow him to use that expertise. He also would like a position on a veterans' committee. Coutu, a U.S. Air Force veteran and a member of the National Guard, founded the nonprofit American Warrior program that raised money to send World War II veterans to Washington, D.C.

Malone recalled when he was a freshman legislator, Lisbon students asked him to write a bill involving punishments for teenagers for doctoring their ages on drivers' licenses. Fellow legislators helped him get it passed, a courtesy to the new lawmaker.

Malone disliked the concept of submitting bill after bill - “we're enacting too many of them,” he said. He said people sometimes criticized him for lack of activity, but Malone said his committee positions helped his district better, if more quietly.

”I didn't blow my horn enough about things I did,” Malone said Wednesday. “I got myself in a position where I could do some things. I'm not a very good bragger.”

C.BESSETTE@THEDAY.COM
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