Candidates for the 39th District House seat face off in debate

New London — Candidates vying for the 39th District House seat weathered criticisms, pitched new ideas and took their cases to the public on Wednesday during a debate that focused on current hot topics.

More than 100 people attended Wednesday’s forum, which was sponsored by The Day and the League of Women Voters of Southeastern Connecticut and recorded for viewing on

Democrat Anthony Nolan responded curtly to critics who questioned his inaccessibility in the past and his ability in the future to carry on the duties of a representative while working full time as a city police officer. He said he would resign his position with the City Council and his flexibility at work would allow him to take on duties of a state representative.

“All I can say is that for seven years, two years as council president, I’ve done my job,” Nolan said.

Green Party candidate Mirna Martinez, when asked if her lack of attachment to a major party might hurt her effectiveness in Hartford, said she would caucus with Democrats. She also said during her three terms on the school board, including one year as president, “there are times when it was difficult to move things along.” But she said she was able to accomplish goals by “engaging with other groups who shared similar values.”

“I think it’s important for everyone to stand on their own merits. For myself, I’m continuing to do things that people tell me (are) not possible,” Martinez said.

Jason Catala, a Democrat running as a petitioning candidate, was asked about being censured and criticized by his fellow board members in the past. He said he had no regrets about making public his views on school board-related issues. He said he likewise expected to “ruffle some feathers” in Hartford.

“If I get to Hartford, you’re going to get the same Jason Catala,” he said.

Kat Goulart, cross-endorsed by the Republican and Independent parties, called herself a “moderate Republican” who would focus on the state’s wasteful spending habits.

Goulart said she was in staunch opposition to tolls, called them regressive, and said the state needs to address waste “before we ask our residents to reach in their wallets for one more dime.”

One of the questions focused on whether past state representatives had ignored calls from city Republicans to reduce the size of government and cut taxes. Nolan said "nothing," while Goulart called herself “one of those frustrated Republicans who feels she hasn’t been heard.”

She called the local rise in property taxes evidence that past representatives are not listening to constituents.

“Until we start acknowledging there needs to be a change in the one-party rule, we’re going to continue to circle the drain,” Goulart said.

When asked about tolls, Nolan suggested tolls at the state borders and the addition of speed traps to not only slow down traffic but help generate revenue for the state.

Catala said he “does not support tolls in any fashion” and called them an “an unnecessary fee for small business owners.” Martinez said she was not in favor but called tolls “inevitable.”

Nolan called for more taxes on services.

The debate fell on the same day as Gov. Ned Lamont’s inaugural budget address, in which he pitched the idea of raising new revenues through an expansion of sales taxes.

Catala’s reaction was “everything is going to be taxed.” He said, “Am I going to support all of these things? Absolutely not. If anybody’s going to support all of these taxes, then they should not be going up to Hartford. I will support some of these but there is no way I could support all of these. It’s ridiculous.”

Martinez called for enforcement of current tax laws and an increase in personal taxes for the state’s highest earners. Goulart called for better spending habits before taxes.

Nolan said while he would not support every tax proposed in Lamont’s budget, “Connecticut doesn’t get enough money from services.”

The special election to fill the seat, vacated by Chris Soto when he stepped down to join the Lamont administration, will be held on Feb. 26 in Voting Districts 1 and 2.

Editor's note: This version corrects a response by Anthony Nolan.


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