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Two challengers seek seat of state Rep. Anthony Nolan in New London

New London — Two candidates have emerged to challenge incumbent Democratic state Rep. Anthony Nolan’s seat in the 39th District.

The New London Green Party on Sunday nominated 21-year-old youth activist Erycka Ortiz, a New London native who said she looks forward to being a voice in Hartford to help deliver the social justice message of the youth movement.

New London Republican Kat Goulart, who was nominated by her party as a candidate earlier this year but admittedly only as a placeholder, said on Wednesday that she is prepared to start campaigning.

Ortiz is a newcomer to politics while Goulart was one of three candidates defeated by Nolan during a special election in 2019 to fill a seat left vacant by outgoing former state Rep. Chris Soto, a Democrat.

Ortiz has been helping to push the youth-focused agenda locally through her work with the youth activist group Hearing Youth Voices, where she is an apprentice organizer.

“We’re constantly having conversations about young people but never bringing them into the room,” Ortiz said. “Elections are a great time to remind them they have a voice.”

Ortiz describes herself as a “Black Latinx visible Trans" woman, an artist, writer, singer, healer and social justice advocate whose mission “is to help create a world which makes space for all.”

“I am excited to bring this message of empowerment to New Londoners as they consider who should represent them in Hartford,” she said.

Hearing Youth Voices, the group that was instrumental in planning a massive Black Lives Matter rally earlier this year in New London, has pushed a list of demands to the city in an attempt to change public policy. Chief among the goals of the group is “defunding police” or shifting a portion of police funds toward education. The group also has called for the removal of police officers from New London schools.

Ortiz said that despite the fact that education is key to the future of the youth, funding for police continues to rise at a much higher rate than education.

“That message already tells youth how we view them,” she said.

Goulart, 40, is chairwoman of the Police Community Relations Committee, chairwoman of the New London Republican Town Committee and commissioner on the Economic Development Commission. She also serves as the vice president of the FBI New Haven Citizen Alumni Association and treasurer of the New London Babe Ruth League.

“He is a very nice person,” Goulart said of Nolan, “but given his voting record and service as a state representative, I don’t think he has served the New London community well. He cannot be allowed to run unopposed.”

Goulart said the economic climate in New London needs more attention.

“There’s a lot more going on than social issues in New London. We can be mindful of the social issues, but we also need to be aware of the economic piece to ensure we’re thriving,” Goulart said.

She said she was disappointed in Nolan’s vote to approve the police accountability bill, which includes a contested provision that makes changes to qualified immunity for police, which some argue opens the door to frivolous lawsuits against police.

While she is an endorsed candidate, Goulart has not yet registered a committee with the State Elections Enforcement Commission. Fundraising can start, she said, once that paperwork is processed.

Nolan, 52, a New London police officer who previously served four terms on the City Council, said he knows and respects Ortiz and shares some of her views, especially when it comes to police accountability.

Likewise, Ortiz gave Nolan credit for listening to the youth.

“He’s a community man. I have an enormous amount of respect for Anthony Nolan,” Ortiz said. “He has been supportive of the conversations we’re having.”

That being said, Ortiz hopes to inspire more youth and “historical changes we’ve only dreamed of.”

Nolan said he has grown more comfortable in Hartford over the past year and “looks forward to going back up to continue the fight.” He is a member of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, Insurance and Real Estate Committee and Appropriations Committee.

Nolan, known for his work with youth in the community, said he will continue to seek COVID-19 relief funding for the district and intends to push for New London’s seat at the table with the Connecticut Port Authority and increased revenue from State Pier.

“I will run on how I do my job as a community advocate, a peace officer and trying to make life better for everyone,” Nolan said.

g.smith@theday.com

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