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In seeking election to an eighth term, Joe Courtney faces three challengers

Three candidates are challenging seven-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, of Vernon, to represent the 2nd Congressional District that covers the eastern half of Connecticut.

In making his case for reelection, Courtney, 67, cited his 13 years of experience serving in Congress, including his role as chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee in the House, which has oversight of Navy shipbuilding, and as a senior member on the House Education and Workforce Committee.

"I think we have a very strong record to take to the people in the 2nd District," he said.

Republican Justin Anderson, 49, a lieutenant colonel in the Connecticut National Guard and a retired correctional officer, said what compelled him to join the military — a desire to serve his country — is also what led him to run for political office. He's also a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission in East Haddam. Anderson beat Tom Gilmer, whom Republicans endorsed for the seat, in a close race that led to a recount, to run against Courtney in the general election.

Cassandra Martineau, 54, the Green Party candidate, a transgender woman and a longtime social justice activist, is an executive officer with the Windham/Willimantic branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the founder of Willimantic Rainbow Connection, an LGBTQ+ group. She is also a member of Windham’s Zoning Board of Appeals and worked for 15 years in public schools in the Windham area.

Libertarian Daniel Reale, 38, a paralegal, also challenged Courtney in 2018. He is chairman of the Connecticut Libertarian Party, which sued the state earlier this year over the election law requiring candidates to gather voter signatures before appearing on the ballot.

Courtney said he and his staff have spent much of this year helping constituents impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, including connecting them with support through the federal CARES Act. He is in favor of another federal stimulus package, which he said should include money for a robust, national COVID-19 testing program, funding for state and local governments and direct payments to the general public. He said he worked to ensure farmers, and more recently shellfishermen, were eligible for federal relief funds, and also fought to get an amendment in the CARES Act to require private insurance companies to cover the cost of a COVID vaccine, once available, for policy holders.

Anderson cited his involvement in the state's response to the pandemic. He was called to active duty to be the military liaison officer to the Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Region 1 Office, ensuring stocks of personal protective equipment were distributed to local municipalities, emergency responders, hospitals and, later, local businesses. These efforts were vital in Connecticut's response to and containment of COVID-19, he said.

Reale criticized the federal government's response to the pandemic, including the stimulus package. 

"It makes no sense to print money out to stimulate the movement of goods and services when you're letting 49 governors restrain the movement of goods and services," he said, referring to the various lockdown orders instituted by governors across the country to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Reale has appeared at rallies calling on Gov. Ned Lamont to reopen the state, saying Lamont's executive orders are an overreach of his authority and are hurting small businesses.

The pandemic accelerated the existing "fiscal disaster" in the U.S., he said, pointing to the enormous national debt, created in large part by Wall Street, which "keeps inflating this huge derivatives bubble."

"All this stimulus exercise is, is people trying to inflate their way out of that bubble," he said.

The pandemic has underscored the need for a national single-payer health care system, Martineau said, something she has long supported. Courtney has introduced a bill to allow Americans aged 50-64 to buy into Medicare and supports an expansion of the Affordable Care Act.

Access to affordable health care is a keystone of Martineau's campaign, along with income inequality and the environment. She supports the Green New Deal and wants federal funding to go toward supporting local manufacture, installation, maintenance and ownership of power.

She said corporate influence in politics has hamstrung any progress on these issues. Martineau, like all Green Party candidates, has pledged not to accept contributions from corporations, lobbyists or political action committees.

Martineau criticized Courtney for supporting federal budgets that increased military spending, including for submarine programs, and said a much broader economic policy that benefits the entire district is needed. She is in favor of reducing funding for the Defense Department by 10% and redirecting that money toward education and infrastructure.

In his time in office, and particularly during his chairmanship of the seapower subcommittee, Courtney has continued to push for a boost in the submarine budget, including funding a new class of ballistic-missile submarines — to be built by Electric Boat, which has facilities in southeastern Connecticut — expected to cost $110 billion, making it one of the most expensive weapons programs. Several years ago, he created the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund as a way to fund the program outside of the Navy's shipbuilding budget. This approach would allow the Department of Defense to find funding across the Pentagon to invest in the program, and provides for the cost-efficient purchases of parts and streamlined production, he said.

Anderson said he supports funding to support "a strong military," including more money for technical schools and workforce development programs to develop talent for Connecticut's defense industry.

j.bergman@theday.com

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