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    Saturday, November 26, 2022

    OPINION: Refusing to debate, Rep. Howard mocks transgendered students

    I reported last week that Republican Rep. Greg Howard was willing to debate his opponent in the 43rd District House race, while Republican Sen. Heather Somers was declining a League of Women Voters debate and participating only in a chamber of commerce candidate forum.

    But it turns out Howard — according to what he recently told radio listeners — would also refuse a league-sponsored debate.

    I’ll take responsibility for the reporting mistake. I tried to reach out to Howard last week and asked him in an email to call me. He didn’t call. I never did speak with him and evidently misinterpreted what he said about participating in a debate.

    As of Wednesday afternoon, Howard has refused to call me.

    But a reader sent me a clip of a troubling appearance the representative made on a conservative talk radio station, giving his reasons for not debating. You can listen here, starting at 2:34.

    Howard’s comments on other topics, like his reasons for voting against Connecticut’s latest expansion of abortion rights and his apparent mockery of transgendered high school students, made me see why his Democratic opponent would like to see him address questions in a real, moderated debate, not just in a chamber forum or before a conservative radio audience.

    I was very surprised how out of synch he appears to be philosophically with the moderates I know in the district, including parts of Stonington, North Stonington and Ledyard.

    Refusing to debate has become a new Republican trend around the country and in parts of Connecticut, the latest affront to democracy from a party guided by an insurrectionist and harboring so many election results deniers.

    I’m glad to say the only offenders so far in eastern Connecticut seem to be Sen. Somers and Howard, the two candidates who refuse to return my calls.

    I had an engaging conversation with Republican Robert Boris, who told me he is ready and willing to debate his opponent in the 41st District, in a league-sponsored debate or any other similar forum. I notice Boris curiously does not use the word Republican anywhere on his campaign mailers.

    Democrat Martha Marx issued an alarmist press release this week about her opponent in the race for the open Senate seat in the 20th District, Republican Jerry Labriola, not committing yet to a debate. But a Labriola spokesman said the candidate certainly plans to debate and is working on dates with the chamber and the League of Women Voters.

    Rep. Howard of Stonington said on conservative talk radio he doesn’t want to participate in a league-sponsored debate because he says the organization is “left leaning.” He also gave a long tortured description about how he was cheated out of giving a full answer in a lightning round debate question two years ago.

    All I could think of, as he complained at great length about the debate lightning round two years ago, was the way my mother used to scold me when, as a whining kid, I held a grudge: “Where’s the snow we had last winter!”

    Howard also said, to the suggestion he join a League debate at the Groton Public Library, that he wouldn’t travel out of his district. No travel to the next town over for him to debate issues.

    Even more troubling to me than Howard’s apparent fear of debating his opponent were the troubling political and cultural perspectives he revealed.

    The Stonington police detective explained his vote against the state’s recent expansion of abortion laws, which could help make the state a refuge for women denied access in hard-line red states. He complained about procedures done without doctors.

    The law, which widens the number of health professionals who can perform abortions — the practice in more than a dozen states — and protect them from the civil and criminal reach of states where it is illegal and creating more demand here, had a lot of Republican support in the Connecticut General Assembly.

    I suspect Howard’s vote would put him at odds with many constituents, and a moderated debate in front of wide audience would be a good place to explain it. Are women in this district going to accept his cold shoulder to those around the country denied abortions in the Republican-led crackdown? I hope not.

    Most alarming to me, though, in his radio chat, was the way he complained about a “woke agenda” and said — I’m not making this up — that liberals want to put litter boxes in high school classroom so that kids “who identify as cats” can go to the bathroom.

    He didn’t even dismiss such shameless mockery of high schoolers coping with such monumental issues as making some kind of joke. It was apparently just nasty, mean mockery.

    It had nothing to do with what might be a legitimate political discourse, about transgendered athletes in sports.

    “If it’s real or not,” he told someone who seemed surprised by his kitty litter suggestion. “It is believable.”

    I wonder if constituents who hear such mockery of accommodating transgendered high school students, the newest vulnerable victims in Republicans’culture wars, might not want to eliminate Howard in this election, after he skips the debate lightning round that apparently frightens him.

    This is the opinion of David Collins

    D.collins@theday.com

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