State Rep. Kathleen McCarty vies for re-election against Nick Gauthier in 38th District
State Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, is running for her fifth term in office and is challenged by Democrat Nick Gauthier for the 38th District seat.
The 38th House District includes Waterford and parts of the Uncasville and Oakdale sections of Montville after redistricting.
McCarty, 72, has spent her tenure in office primarily concerned with health care and education issues. She is the ranking House member of the legislature's Education Committee and serves on the Public Health and Appropriations committees. Her caucuses include Women’s, Individuals with Disability, and Tourism Arts & Culture.
In her professional life, McCarty has been a Connecticut high school French teacher, co-pilot, family business co-owner, sports coach and assistant to the Fordham University Medieval Studies program director.
A mother to two adult daughters and a grandmother to three grandchildren, McCarty has also served as the chair of the Waterford Board of Education, among a list of volunteer activities.
Gauthier, 35, is a Waterford native and a two-term representative on the Waterford Representative Town Meeting (RTM) who currently works for the town’s senior services department. He is a Waterford High School and University of Connecticut graduate and holds a masters degree in public administration. He has also served as an activist, labor organizer, grassroots political organizer, and community organizer.
McCarty last defeated Baird Welch-Collins in the 2020 election as she captured 52.2% of the vote.
Gauthier, who served on the RTM alongside Welch-Collins, said the two share similar philosophies on the majority of issues, especially when it comes to best representing residents.
“I don’t know how I can really, truly represent someone unless we’ve met, unless we’ve talked, unless we’ve had that open dialogue,” Gauthier said, explaining that he goes the “extra mile” at every door he knocks on.
Gauthier said he got tired of “beating his head against a brick wall” when it came to his work as an activist and organizer, and decided he wanted to work to make a change.
“I get frustrated where a lot of people in office, they just are in there for so long that they don’t really listen to people organizing on the outside,” Gauthier said.
McCarty said she began her work as a representative because “I care about people and I want to help.”
In the last legislative session, McCarty worked to address the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of school-aged children and had policies put in place to help students with their social-emotional learning and needs. She worked for the legislature to help first responders suffering from PTSD and supported a provision to prevent employers from discriminating based on age. She also worked on a bill of rights for senior citizens in long-term care facilities as well as provisions for visitation, like video call visits. Combatting the opioid crisis is also at the forefront of her work as she helped establish a peer navigators program, similar to the New London Cares program.
McCarty said he “life experience” has been been crucial to her work as a representative.
“That experience has allowed me to bring that to the legislature,” she said. “I think you can ask both sides of the aisle that I’ve created a reputation of being someone who is bipartisan, willing to listen and get the job done.”
Gauthier, too, wants to address concerns in the health care and education fields, and stand up for the working class. He is endorsed by the independent party and the working families party.
Gauthier said he wants to lower the cost of health care and guarantee it to all as a human right. He wants to work on climate change legislation as well, but he has a large portion of his energy focused on fighting for the working class. He wants workers to earn a fair wage along with paid family medical leave and the ability for workers to fight for their rights through collective bargaining.
“Nobody should be working poor,” he said.
In the education realm, Gauthier called for a more drastic change, as he would like public school funding to come from the state level rather than base funding off of local property taxes. He said the same issues of inequality persist in the current system and that “much more fundamental change than what is really being considered right now” is needed.
Gauthier said that, at the end of the day, he wants the best strategies in place to “take care of the people in our district, in our towns and in our state.” He pointed to his time on the RTM and said he learned a lot that has him ready to focus on what the district needs. He also called for the end of privately funded campaigns and called it “totally unacceptable” for private money to play a part in the decision making of the legislature.
“We can have disagreements and we can have different ideologies, but we can’t have people in office who are operating based on money interests buying their interests,” Gauthier said.
On the topic of affordable housing, McCarty said it is “necessary in our state,” and pointed to the law known as 8-30g that makes it more difficult for local zoning commissions to deny affordable housing developments within their borders.
She said that the law needs to be reviewed for its effectiveness and cited that only 18% of towns have met the goal of the minimal requirement.
“If you’re spending 30% of your income on housing, it’s not affordable housing,” McCarty said.
Gauthier said it falls on the town to address the zoning regulations, but noted that funding for affordable housing is needed. He said too many developments are for private profit and not the best interest of the residents.
“If we want to make housing affordable, it has to be separated out from the profit motive,” Gauthier said. “If housing is only about private profit for private developers, then it’s really hard to get to a level of affordable housing that we need.”
Both candidates expressed their support for the state being a safe haven for women seeking abortions, and both said they are pro-choice.
Gauthier criticized McCarty for voting against house bill 5414 that would protect people receiving and providing reproductive health care services in the state. McCarty said she voted against it because those providing the care would not receive a level of training she, and others, were satisfied with.
She said it would be “misinformation to be classified in a camp that would prohibit a woman from having a choice.”
When it comes to the state’s $4 billion surplus, each candidate wanted to give some of it back to the taxpayer while also paying down the state’s debt.
“It’s not neither nor, it’s a both and,” Gauthier explained.
“I’m in the middle of the road on that one,” McCarty said. “I’d like to preserve a good enough safety valve so we don’t find ourselves back in that position (owing more money toward pensions).”
When it came to climate change and moving toward clean, renewable sources of energy, both candidates looked to Dominion Energy’s Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Waterford.
“We know that the continued operation of Millstone has actually allowed us to have a transition to clean carbon and to have clean air,” McCarty said, and noted her involvement in securing the latest contract with the power plant.
Gauthier said it’s important to make sure “Millstone operates for as long as it is viable and is safe to operate.” He said both of his parents worked for the power plant that now employs nearly 1,500 people.
Gauthier also said he would like more to be done in other clean energy avenues, like installing solar panels on town-owned buildings and creating a larger infrastructure of charging stations so owning electric vehicles can become a more viable option for people.
Both candidates agreed that Joe Biden fairly won the 2020 election.
Both candidates support alternative voting measures, like mail-in voting, to reach a larger portion of the population.
“We should all encourage to have as many individuals involved in our democracy,” McCarty said. “That empowers everyone.”
Gauthier called for Election Day to be a State Holiday so everyone can vote regardless of their work schedule.
While Connecticut does not currently offer early voting measures, both candidates were pleased that issue will be on this fall’s ballot for residents to vote on.
Short-term rentals have become a larger issue in the area recently. Gauthier said it falls on each municipality to determine appropriate ordinances to combat the growing noise and crime-related issues. He compared it to regulating hotels.
“People who come in treat it as a vacation home, makes sense from their perspective,” he said.
McCarty related the issue to the lack of affordable housing.
“We need to do more to allow people to have the resources and the funding that they can for the rent that’s fairly high in this region,” McCarty explained, noting that it will take a bipartisan effort.
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