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Region's state representatives begin reaching out to new voters

With redrawn state House districts, some legislators are losing towns and gaining new ones, along with new would-be constituents.

State representatives are reaching out to contacts and laying groundwork in Ledyard, New London, Montville and elsewhere to become familiar with areas they may represent if successful in the November 2022 election.

Connecticut's congressional redistricting still is incomplete, as a panel of legislators failed to come to an agreement. A state Supreme Court-appointed special master is charged with redrawing the districts. But legislators were able to agree on new state Senate and state House district maps.

The General Assembly's Reapportionment Commission's redrawn state Senate map doesn't really affect southeastern Connecticut, with its districts — 18, 19, 20 and 33 — largely staying the same. Southeastern Connecticut was more affected by the new state House district map.

State representatives and senators have said a population shift away from eastern Connecticut and toward Fairfield County accounted for shift the 42nd District to cover Wilton, part of New Canaan and part of Ridgefield, and away from Ledyard, Preston and part of Montville. State Rep. Mike France, R-Ledyard, currently represents the 42nd District and is retiring after his current term, making the loss of the seat sting less for Republicans.

Almost all of Ledyard is now in Stonington Republican Rep. Greg Howard's 43rd District, but part of it is also in the 45th District, currently represented by Republican Brian Lanoue of Griswold.

Howard noted he hasn't declared his candidacy yet but has reached out to Ledyard leadership, including the mayor.

"There'll be things in Ledyard that are specific to Ledyard that will help that municipality that may not have helped Stonington or North Stonington," Howard said. "If you're asking me because it's a more Republican district, am I going to change my positions, no, I am me."

Joe de la Cruz, D-Groton, who represents the 41st District, is picking up part of Stonington from Howard as a result of Howard's district taking in the majority of Ledyard. De la Cruz did not respond to a request for comment.

"A lot of people from Stonington are concerned because they've never experienced having the town divided between two state reps. That becomes a little bit clumsy at times, but at the same time you sort of get two for the price of one," Howard said. "You have two legislators advocating for issues specific to your municipality, so there are advantages."

The 40th District, represented by Democrat Christine Conley of Groton, now will have the southern tip of New London and will no longer have part of Ledyard.

Conley said she's been attending New London events and thanked state Rep. Anthony Nolan, D-New London, for inviting her. She called redistricting "a wonderful challenge." Come 2023, she will be representing New London and Groton.

"It's helpful more for me that New London is a hub of services for New London County. A lot of needs that are New London-specific affect people in the towns that I currently represent as well," she said. "It's more of a challenge for people who didn't get a hub town added. Anthony Nolan, Joe de la Cruz and I have always worked closely together, so I know the issues in New London and I've helped the mayor of New London on issues."

The 139th District represented by Rep. Kevin Ryan, D-Montville, gains more land in Montville with the new map. Ryan's district also moves into Ledyard.

Like Conley, Ryan said the new map is reminiscent of the map before the 2011 redistricting. And like Howard, he also pointed out that he hasn't officially decided to run.

"It's kind of going back to a district I had about 20 years ago. The new part would be over in Ledyard," Ryan said. "I'm trying to get acquainted with the people in Ledyard, get a better idea of what's going on there, and meeting people who live in the Gales Ferry section, which Chris Conley currently has. I'm paying attention so I'm not totally blind for when we start the campaign after the conventions in May."

Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin, of the 47th District will no longer represent Lebanon — Tim Ackert, R-Coventry, of the 8th District will. Dubitsky's district no longer encompasses Hampton and now includes parts of Brooklyn and Plainfield.

"It's certainly sad that I'll be losing three towns; those are towns that I really loved," Dubitsky said. "Over the last seven years I've had quite the relationship with Hampton, Lebanon and Franklin, and I'm very sad to be losing them. Those relationships will continue, just in a different way."

Dubitsky said with regard to the new areas, he's contacted people he knows who live there and has done "quite a bit of driving around those areas" to get the lay of the land and understand the new boundaries.

He knew his district — a loose collection of small towns in a slow-growing area of the state — would be a target for redistricting. But he doesn't feel slighted.

"I knew that my district had to change because there just weren't enough people in there. I was certainly hoping that I would retain the towns that I had and simply add additional areas, but it was not in my control," he said. "It's clear that both sides of the aisle felt their job was to protect their incumbents and I certainly understand that."

The new House district map also includes part of Montville in the 37th District, a seat held by Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme. She and other legislators said they haven't really started in earnest to reach out to their new constituents.

But, she said, she has a long relationship with Montville.

"I was the state central committee member, I worked a lot with the Montville Republican Town Committee, so I have an established relationship with the official Republican arm there. I know Mayor Ron McDaniel well," Cheeseman said. "My plan is to do targeted phone calls once I'm certified as a candidate, probably do some mailings from my campaign funds and later, closer to the election, do doors. I also hope to start attending Montville Town Council meetings to get a better feel of what the local issues are."

s.spinella@theday.com

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