Challengers in 23rd House District race focus on economy, jobs

In the race for the 23rd House District, which encompasses Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and part of Westbrook, two newcomers are vying for the seat long held by retiring six-term legislator Rep. Marilyn Giuliano, R-Old Saybrook.

Republican Devin Carney and Democrat Mary Stone are both forging ahead with campaigns that focus on the economy and the educational and environmental values important to the shoreline area. But they each bring different proposals they say will strengthen the four-town district and the state.

Carney, a 30-year-old small businessman and Realtor from Old Saybrook, said he wants to focus on creating jobs and making the state more affordable, so young people and seniors will be able to remain in state. To address what he calls "the largest issue" he's seen in the district, he said the legislature needs to focus on improving people's confidence both in business and in the state.

He supports rolling back taxes for businesses, such as the business-entity tax that costs $250 for someone to start a new business. He also wants to work with the business community to create jobs, as well as provide job training to restore Connecticut as a "manufacturing powerhouse" and center for industries, such as biotechnology.

"We really need to collaborate with the business community and also collaborate across party lines to make that a reality," Carney said. "I would work tirelessly for that."

There are opportunities for technical schools and the state university system to partner with businesses to align the schools with the skills businesses need, Carney said.

Active in community organizations in Old Saybrook, Carney said his other priorities include working with local leaders to fight unfunded state mandates, preserving the environment and reforming the tax structure for seniors. He said he would consider a repeal of the Common Core state standards if the opportunity presented itself.

Carney also proposes putting a "lockbox" around the Special Transportation Fund, to ensure the funds will go toward transportation needs, such as failing roads, to help businesses move goods and services through the state and also help residents reduce "the wear and tear" on their vehicles.

Carney said it's important to have a "diverse chorus of voices" in Hartford, rather than a "super majority" that makes the decisions.

"It's just time for some fresh blood up there to focus on how to make Connecticut a better and more affordable place," he said.

Mary Stone, 60, a writer and an editor from Old Lyme, said job growth - especially through small businesses - will be the engine to boost the district's economy.

"It's going to ensure the vitality of our towns, if we can grow jobs here at home and employ young people, especially," she said.

To do so, she said the state should emphasize job training, particularly in expanding industries such as emerging technologies and green energy. She said state investments in community colleges, which have been instrumental in training students, as well as a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum in schools, could help promote this goal.

Stone supports the Small Business Express program, which offers small-business loans and grants but advocates for greater analysis of the program and its recipients. She also said the state should streamline regulations that are burdensome for small businesses.

Storm preparedness, particularly in the face of increasingly common and severe storms, is another topic Stone feels deserves more state attention. To address an issue she said is important to the low-lying shoreline area, she proposes a public information campaign for residents.

For educational mandates, such as the Common Core State Standards, which she said came from the "top down," the state now needs to support solutions from the "bottom up." She said teachers and administrators should be allowed to devise reasonable timelines for implementation of the mandates that fit their schools' needs.

Stone, currently a member of the Old Lyme Zoning Board of Appeals and an alternate on the Old Lyme Open Space Commission, said the state should continue to preserve land within the lower Connecticut River Valley. During her eight years on the Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education, she said she began a newsletter to increase communication.

She said she will advocate for the district and work with people and across party lines in Hartford.

"I really enjoy connecting people with the information and services they need," she said. "That's a great part of what a state representative does."

k.drelich@theday.com

Twitter: @KimberlyDrelich

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