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46th District House race in Norwich features opposing ideas, perspectives

Norwich — The two candidates vying for the 46th District House of Representatives differ on most issues and even on what voters are saying as they knock on doors in the urban district.

Incumbent Democrat Emmett Riley, 49, is seeking his fourth term in the district that covers the urban and southern portion of Norwich. He faces Republican Andrew Lockwood, 58, a former New London resident who ran unsuccessfully for state legislature, New London City Council and mayoral seats.

Lockwood said he moved to Norwich a year ago with no intention of running, but was encouraged to challenge Riley by Rob Dempsky, who twice lost to Riley.

Riley, a 1987 Norwich Free Academy graduate is a full-time legislator. He previously was director of fund development and marketing for Madonna Place in Norwich and prior to that was director of development for the Southeastern Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence. He and his wife, Melissa Riley — who held the House seat for 10 years prior to her husband — have a 4-year-old son.

Lockwood is currently disabled and a part-time real estate agent. He formerly owned a hotel, a car dealership and a small construction company. He has an adult son and daughter, four grandchildren and takes care of his 91-year-old mother. After attending Mitchell College in New London and Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, he earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Connecticut and graduated from University of Massachusetts law school.

Lockwood said he has met about 2,000 voters. “They’re not happy about their current representatives,” Lockwood said. “(People of) all parties are very upset about the representation they’ve gotten.”

Lockwood said voters are very concerned about taxes, tolls, are worried about the state getting worse and told him a lot of friends are moving out of the area.

Riley countered that voters he has met are glad the state’s economy is improving and are concerned about health care, equal pay for women and family leave from work for emergencies.

“People are very happy and thankful for the job I’m doing in Hartford,” Riley said.

In tackling the state budget crisis, Riley said it will take multiple proposals to balance the budget. One idea he likes would funnel a portion of state lottery revenue to address the neglected state employee and teacher pension fund.

He also would explore new revenues, including electronic tolls to fund road work, legalized marijuana and sports betting — all issues Lockwood opposed.

“Not that any one of these things will save the state of Connecticut from the budgetary situation that we’re in, but these are things that will help the state’s economy and help people with jobs and help people going forward in making the state a better place.”

Lockwood said the state needs zero-based budgeting, eliminating wasteful spending and cooperation by “crafty people” in both political parties to resolve problems such as the state’s unfunded pension obligation.

“The people who worked for those pensions are expecting to get them,” Lockwood said. “I think we have to change that going forward. In every department there we really got to take a hard look at where any kind of wasteful spending is being used and change the way we’re doing business.”

Lockwood said he’s not sure how realistic Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski’s plan to eliminate the state income tax in eight years is but called it “a useful goal.”

“Can he get it done in eight years?” Lockwood said, “There is a possibility to do that. It’s going to take work.”

Riley said the next governor will have to ask state labor unions again to negotiate possible savings, but said state workers already have given “tons and tons and tons of money” back to the state.

“These individuals work every day,” Riley said. “They do jobs that are needed to keep this state going forward. We have people who are cleaning our roads, fixing our streets, keeping our public safe. I mean, these are people who are working on a daily basis to make sure that we have a state of Connecticut that’s safe and healthy to live in.”

Lockwood opposes tolls and said so do voters. His mother’s visiting nurse who lives in Branford, told him she would have to quit her job if she had to pay tolls every day. He said some could lose their licenses if they don't pay toll bills mailed to vehicle owners.

In knocking on “at least 1,800 doors,” Lockwood said, “the first thing that comes up is Connecticut is way overtaxed.”

Lockwood also opposes legalization of marijuana, saying he watched his brother descend into drug use and criminal activity for decades starting with marijuana use and sales.

Riley supported raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and mandating paid family leave. He said large corporations can afford it, and the family leave law could be written to exempt small businesses.

“There’s no reason why a person that’s putting in 35 or 40 hours a week shouldn’t somehow be able maintain a good living wage to support their family, to support themselves,” Riley said.

Lockwood said raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would force businesses to raise prices, hurting consumers. He also argued that raising the minimum wage could take away incentive to work harder. He said when he sold cars on commission, it made him want to do better and earn the commission.

“Just giving arbitrary raises that are not merit base kind of hurts the business and the person…” Lockwood said. “I think just giving an upswing takes away some of the dreams you might have that you have to work hard to get.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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