Heffernan challenges incumbent Carney in 23rd House District
Democrat Colin Heffernan is challenging four-term incumbent Republican Devin Carney for the 23rd District House of Representatives seat.
Carney, 38, first elected in 2014 to represent Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and Westbrook, grew up in Old Saybrook and now lives in Old Lyme. He has bachelor's degrees in political science and American studies from Brandeis University and works in finance. He is the ranking House member of the legislature's Transportation Committee, and serves on the Finance, Revenue and Bonding and Education committees, as well as various Old Saybrook town committees and the Rotary Club. He has also been endorsed by the Independent Party.
Heffernan, 42, grew up spending summers in Old Saybrook. He is a graduate of Cornell University, and received his law degree at Tulane University. After graduation, he moved to Old Saybrook where he now practices law. He has served as the chairperson for the town’s Inlands Wetlands Commission and Aquafer Protection Agency. He has also been a member of the Zoning Commission and a variety of ad-hoc boards and commissions.
On the question of affordable housing, both candidates agree that there should be more local control.
Carney believes the state should reward towns for meeting affordable housing goals, rather than penalizing them, and would like to expand limits on what types of housing are considered affordable to include senior housing and mobile home developments, which he says are affordable.
“We do need affordable housing; we also need local control of zoning,” he said.
Heffernan believes that the affordable housing shortage limits the economic potential of the state. He said that businesses need workers, but the lack of affordable housing limits the labor pool.
In his opinion, the current law, making affordable housing easier to develop in Connecticut, was well intentioned, but has not provided a solution to the shortage.
“It’s a tool that isn’t doing its job,” Heffernan said.
On the question of supporting efforts to make Connecticut a safe haven protecting abortion providers and individuals seeking abortions from lawsuits, both candidates stated they are pro-choice, and both support the idea of Connecticut as a safe haven.
Carney said that Connecticut is already a safe haven in that neither women from another state who have abortions here nor Connecticut doctors who provide them can be sued, but said recent legislation makes abortion less safe by allowing midwives to perform aspiration abortions.
Carney stressed his desire to keep abortion safe and for every woman, regardless of race, religion, location or income, to access the services of a doctor.
Heffernan said he supports strengthening safe haven laws even further.
“It pains me to say, my opponent voted against that bill. Abortion rights are fundamental rights. It’s women’s health,” he said.
On the question of whether the state’s budget surplus should be returned to taxpayers or used to pay down the state’s pension debt, both candidates support lowering pension debt.
“I think, in the long run, that is the wise economical decision to make; we have future generations that are going to have to shoulder this burden,” Carney said.
He said that reducing it will benefit the state, taxpayers and state employees. He pointed to legislation he proposed requiring state income derived through new gaming revenue, like sports betting, go to paying down the teacher’s pension debt.
Heffernan said he believes in fiscal responsibility, controlling pension debt, and increasing the state’s bond rating to ensure economic stability and guard against unforeseen events like a future pandemic or natural disaster.
“You’ll hear a lot from Republicans about how businesses want tax cuts and lower regulations, and that’s true —they often do — but what businesses really want, and what employers really want is stability,” he said.
On the question of how to address climate change with regard to electric vehicles and “clean energy” strategies, both candidates expressed concern that the cost of electric vehicles is prohibitive to many state residents. However, Carney does not support subsidizing them, and Heffernan believes they should be incentivized.
Carney supports diversifying Connecticut’s energy supply and endorses nuclear power as a virtually carbon-free source of power and the basis for a future, primarily renewable energy supply.
He cautioned that the state is not in a position to switch to renewable energy today because it does not produce enough through renewable means. He said the state needs to find methods for recycling solar panels and wind panels and find a “cleaner” source for Lithium-Ion batteries.
He points to the state’s reliance upon countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo as a source for the cobalt required to manufacture the batteries saying, “Warlords are forcing children and slaves to mine for cobalt because there is such a high supply there to go into wealthy people’s vehicles. That’s something we need to take a real hard look at and figure out if that’s actually moral or not. I don’t think it is.”
Heffernan believes there are short-, mid-, and long-term issues which need to be addressed.
He stressed that three of the four 23rd District towns are shoreline communities, vulnerable to rising sea levels and increasingly severe weather. He believes in strengthening local infrastructure to protect against the immediate impacts of climate change in the short term and wants to bring more funding into the 23rd district to do so.
The mid-range issue he sees is that ‘greener” methods of transportation need to be found, and, in the long term, he believes the state needs to transition away from using fossil fuels for energy production, which will take “more time, more planning, and more study.” He said all three issues need to be addressed at the same time.
On the question of whether the 2020 was conducted fairly and legitimately, both candidates believe it was, and that Joe Biden won the election.
Carney said there may have been irregularities but does not believe they were sufficient to change the outcome. He also asserted that absentee ballots are essentially a form of mail-in voting, and he supports “no excuse” absentee ballots. He said he supported early voting initiatives in the past but would like to know the parameters before supporting it again.
“I want to see it safe; I want to see it secure; I want to see signature verification, and, if possible, voter ID as well.”
Heffernan supports early voting, mail-in ballot initiatives and making Election Day a holiday.
“I think if we want people to participate in democracy, we need to make it as easy as possible for them to do so,” he said.
He said he believes election fraud claims to be “largely unfounded or overstated, and I think that to move our democracy forward we need more involvement, not less.”
Sewers in beach communities
Several beach areas in Old Lyme are under consent orders to address pollution issues stemming from septic systems. When asked if putting sewers in the beach communities is the answer to the problem, and how he will work to secure funding to make the project financially viable for residents, Carney said he opposes forced decrees, and feels the issue should be left to the individual beach associations, but that he would fully support and advocate for state funding to assist the associations that wanted to install sewers.
He feels that some questions about pollution in the area remain unaddressed by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and cautions that many of the residents cannot afford the cost burden of putting in a sewer system.
“Let’s find a solution for them that works and move forward that way, but in any way I can, I would be supportive of them,” he said of the residents..
Heffernan said that though there is disagreement, all of the residents want to find an answer to the problem, and that his job would be to listen to the residents regarding a solution that works for them, and to help them secure funding to implement it.
More specifically, he views issues of pollution of Long Island Sound as a problem for the entire state and said, “a clean Sound benefits everyone in the state of Connecticut, and I would do everything I could to help get the resources to make a clean Sound.”