Candidates out meeting, greeting electorate Friday in state's 33rd Senate District race

Democratic candidate for the 33rd state Senate District Emily Bjornberg checks her voter list Friday as she carries her daughter Anna, 4, while going door to door in Clinton.
Democratic candidate for the 33rd state Senate District Emily Bjornberg checks her voter list Friday as she carries her daughter Anna, 4, while going door to door in Clinton.

On the Friday before Election Day, Emily Bjornberg spent the afternoon going door to door to visit voters in Clinton with her 4-year-old daughter.

State Sen. Art Linares spent the morning addressing residents at a retirement community in Chester, and brought along his father, whom he called a "great mentor."

On the last weekend of campaigning before voters cast their ballot on Tuesday, the candidates for the 33rd Senate District were working hard in a contested race that pits Linares, a Republican incumbent from Westbrook, against Bjornberg, a Democrat from Lyme, and Green Party candidate Colin Bennett of Westbrook.

The 12-town district encompasses Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook.

In Clinton, Bjornberg, her daughter Anna, and Kathleen Skoczen, president of the Shoreline League of Democratic Women, traipsed through leaf-strewn roads and doorsteps decorated with Halloween pumpkins to ask for voters' support.

At their first stop, Anna excitedly ran up to a house with a red door to meet the resident. When no one answered, Bjornberg, 33, decided to write a note on her campaign card.

"I'm going to write, 'Sorry to miss you,'" she told her daughter, who attached the card to the door.

The two tried a few more houses, but many residents were not home in the afternoon hours. Finally, a resident answered the door.

"I'm just here to introduce myself because I'm going to be on your ballot on Tuesday," said Bjornberg.

Jill Hromadka, the resident, said both taxes and education are important, which she realizes is a balance, since she has children in the public school system but is also a property owner.

Bjornberg, director of Youth and Family Ministries at the Deep River Congregational Church, spoke about advocating to get small towns a higher share of the state's education funding and also working so school districts aren't burdened by unfunded state mandates.

"Excellent," said Hromadka, after listening to Bjornberg.

Meanwhile, on Friday morning, in a brightly lit room at Chester Village West, a retirement community, Linares spent his 26th birthday at an event speaking with residents. Bjornberg also spoke at the retirement community earlier this week.

After going around the room to shake hands, Linares told the 20 or so attendees that it has been an honor to represent the district's 12 towns for the past two years.

Pointing out his father, Art Linares Sr., at the back of the room, the state senator said his family came from "humble beginnings," but his father worked hard to succeed and showed him you can achieve anything in America if you work hard.

"I believe the role of our government is to make sure our people have the opportunity to pursue their dreams," he told the attendees.

Linares, a one-term incumbent and co-founder of Greenskies Renewable Energy, also spoke about creating a better climate for businesses and fielded questions from residents about a variety of issues.

One resident, Bill Bernhart, told Linares he was "encouraged" to hear him speak about business and jobs. Bernhart said his company had to move thousands of jobs out of the state in the 1980s and said he recently read that Connecticut is one of the worst states in the country to do business in.

Bennett, 35, a substitute teacher for the Region 4 school district, wasn't out campaigning Friday but spent his afternoon making phone calls and writing. Bennett, who is accepting a small amount of contributions from only individuals, not corporate sponsors, said the number one issue he hears from people is a disillusionment with elected officials.

"What we need in Hartford is a citizen legislature made of local community members," he said.

Bennett, who has run several times for state office and is advocating for renewable energy, said he is excited about this election because he feels people are recognizing his name and what he stands for.

Bjornberg said she's been campaigning since spring, and volunteers have also been canvassing Democrats and unaffiliated voters for her and fellow Democrats.

Linares said he's been going door to door since June and he and his campaign have made thousands of phone calls.

k.drelich@theday.com

Twitter: @KimberlyDrelich

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2014 Election Guide

Republican state Sen. Art Linares speaks to Nancy Smith, left, and Helen Roberts Friday at Chester Village West in Chester.
Republican state Sen. Art Linares speaks to Nancy Smith, left, and Helen Roberts Friday at Chester Village West in Chester.

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