Formica gets nod over Ritter in 20th

Voters in the 20th Senatorial District will elect a capable senator to replace retiring state Sen. Andrea Stillman, a Democrat who served five terms.

The candidates in the race are Democratic Rep. Betsy Ritter, who is leaving a secure 38th House District seat to try to make the leap into the Senate; and Republican Paul Formica, the popular first selectman of East Lyme.

Both have their strengths and not a lot of weaknesses.

Rep. Ritter has a decade of legislative experience. She rose to the position of deputy speaker in the House, in large part on her demonstrated strength in building consensus within the party to get legislation passed. With her background, and with Democrats likely in control of the Senate, she would have more pull than your typical freshman.

Mr. Formica, however, brings a dual perspective that is rare in Hartford. As a veteran first selectman, he knows what it is like to run a municipality, the challenges towns and cities face and the state policies that help and hinder meeting those challenges. As the owner and operator of Flanders Fish Market for 31 years, he also would bring to the Senate the experience of being a successful small businessman

Mr. Formica's record as first selectman since 2007 has been an impressive one of small tax increases, balanced budgets that finish with surpluses, and bipartisan participation in his administration, a stark contrast to the political fighting the town saw before his election. In two of the last three elections, he ran unopposed.

His accomplishments include a water-sharing deal with neighboring New London that has brought to an end the annual summer water restrictions his town had faced for years. Mr. Formica's town is also working on a cooperative plan to share 911 services with neighboring communities.

Whether leading the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, working for regional transportation initiatives or participating in cooperative efforts to address homelessness, Mr. Formica has recognized the need for our communities to work together, a spirit he would take to Hartford.

While fiscally conservative, Mr. Formica is not an ideologue, but instead a moderate and a pragmatist. He wants government to run efficiently and sees a need to ease the regulatory burden on business, but recognizes that fiscal cuts cannot go so deep that they impact critical state services.

If we have any reservations, it is that Mr. Formica is a natural executive. Working within the legislature, and likely as a minority party member, will present a different set of challenges. But his record suggests he knows how to work with others and build support for an idea.

In her time in office, Rep. Ritter has been a strong advocate on social issues, including access to health care, support for the elderly and supportive programs to reduce homelessness. She has also been a champion for education reform.

We were disappointed, however, that she sought and embraced Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's recent announcement that the former Seaside property in Waterford would be converted to a state park. Plans to try to develop the property and get it on the tax rolls proved controversial and the election cycle announcement of a state park appeared to be intended to bolster the governor's electoral prospects and her's. The idea needs more study.

Weighing all factors, Mr. Formica is the better choice to represent the district that includes Bozrah, East Lyme, Montville, New London, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Salem and Waterford. Paul Formica wins our endorsement in the 20th District.

NOTE: This editorial was modified from the original version to clarify Rep. Ritter's leadership title in the House of Representatives.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Pat Richardson, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, retired Day editor Lisa McGinley, Managing Editor Tim Cotter and Staff Writer Julia Bergman. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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