The Day, Chamber to host state Senate debates in October

New London — The Day newspaper and the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut are collaborating to present a series of debates among candidates running for state Senate in southeastern Connecticut. With the Senate now split 18-18, the results of the elections in the region could determine control of the Senate.

All the hour-long debates will begin at 7 p.m. and are free to the public. They will be live streamed on theday.com and will remain available for viewing there.

The first debate, Oct. 11, at Kelly Magnet Middle School in Norwich, will feature the candidates in the 19th Senate District — incumbent Democratic Sen. Cathy Osten and her Republican challenger Mark Lounsbury. Osten is seeking a fourth term in the district that includes Columbia, Franklin, Hebron, Lebanon, Ledyard, Lisbon, Marlborough, Montville, Norwich and Sprague.

On Oct. 15, the Charter Oak Credit Union headquarters, 1055 Hartford Turnpike (Route 85), Waterford, will host the 20th Senate District debate. The headquarters is adjacent to Exit 2 off Interstate 395. The 20th District race features two-term incumbent Sen. Paul Formica and his Democratic challenger, Martha Marx. The district includes Bozrah, East Lyme, a portion of Montville, New London, Old Lyme, a portion of Old Saybrook, Salem, and Waterford.

On Oct. 17, Fitch Senior High School will host the 18th Senate District debate between incumbent Republican Sen. Heather Somers, who is seeking a second term, and her Democratic challenger Robert Statchen. The geographically and politically diverse 18th includes the communities of Griswold, Groton, North Stonington, Plainfield, Preston, Sterling, Stonington and Voluntown.

The fourth and final debate is set for Oct. 25 at Old Saybrook High School. Incumbent state Sen. Art Linares is not seeking re-election in the 33rd Senate District. Linares was unsuccessful in his effort to become the Republican candidate for treasurer.

Competing for the open seat are state Rep. Melissa H. Ziobron, R-34th House District, and Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman, a Democrat. The district consists of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland, and Westbrook.

The debates will feature a back-and-forth “60-90-30” format with candidates fielding questions. A candidate taking a question will get 1 minute to answer and his or her opponent then will get 90 seconds to respond and offer rebuttal. The round ends with the candidate who took the question getting 30 seconds to offer a final response before the moderator moves to the next question.

Day Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere will act as questioner and moderator. You can email him with question suggestions at p.choiniere@theday.com. Questions submitted by the audience in writing before the event will also be considered, as time allows.

The chamber has helped in organizing the event and the Southeastern Connecticut League of Women Voters will provide timekeepers.

Editor's Note: This version corrects the spelling of Norm Needleman.

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