Incumbent Sen. Needleman faces East Hampton Town Councilor Goff in 33rd Senate district
Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex, is seeking his third two-year term in the General Assembly and is being challenged by Republican Brandon Goff, an East Hampton town councilor and Navy reservist who works at Northup Grumman.
Needleman is first selectman of Essex and CEO of Tower Laboratories, which employs 300 people in Connecticut and Michigan.
The 33rd Senate District includes Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook and part of Old Saybrook.
After failing to unseat then-incumbent Republican Sen. Art Linares in 2016, Needleman defeated Republican Melissa Ziobron in 2018, with 50% of the vote. Two years ago, he garnered 53.9% of the vote ― with 66.9% in Essex ― against Republican challenger Brendan Saunders.
Needleman, 71, has been chairman of the legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee for four years. He touted his work on legislation requiring 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030, raising caps on commercial solar power, codifying a goal of a zero-carbon electric grid by 2040, and making changes to the Transfer Act, which requires the disclosure of environmental conditions when property is transferred .
He said his priorities going forward include exploring alternatives to shipping large amounts of trash out of state, holding utilities accountable for rates and storm response, and economic development. On every energy policy decision, Needleman said he considers reliability, cost, and climate change mitigation.
Goff, 26, on his website said he would work to reduce the tax burden on residents, rein in utility costs, repeal sections of the 2020 Police Accountability Act, and support parents’ rights to have greater control over their children’s education.
Goff said he supports the $2 billion tax relief plan gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski unveiled last month. He also supports repealing the highway use tax set to take affect in January and eliminating the 1% surcharge on prepared foods. Both Needleman and Goff wanted to see the diesel fuel tax suspended. Until now, the state has only suspended the retail gasoline tax.
Discussing the state’s budget surplus and inflation, Goff said he thinks providing immediate relief for taxpayers “is better than stockpiling all we can” to pay down the state’s pension debt.
“I think there has to be a good split,” he said.
Born and raised in East Hampton, Goff joined the Navy after graduating from East Hampton High School in 2014. After serving as a navigational electronics technician on the USS Maine in Washington state, he moved back home and bought a house in 2019, where he lives with his wife ― high school sweetheart Morgan Slossberg ― and dog.
Goff is in the Navy Reserve and works as an electronics technician for aerospace and defense manufacturer Northrop Grumman. He served on the town’s Brownfields Redevelopment Agency for about a year and then got elected to the Town Council last year.
Needleman, a New York City native, is CEO of the effervescent products manufacturer he founded in 1979, which has three plants in Connecticut ― in Essex and Clinton ― and one in Michigan, an acquisition of an existing plant.
He has two sons, two stepdaughters, and seven grandchildren with two on the way, and has been in a relationship for 23 years with Jacqueline Hubbard, executive director of the Ivoryton Playhouse.
Goff is participating in the Citizens’ Election Program while Needleman is funding his campaign through his own money and donations, as he did in 2018 and 2020.
Needleman has been endorsed by the Independent Party of Connecticut, Planned Parenthood, Uniformed Firefighters, Connecticut Association of Realtors, AFT Connecticut, Associated of Retired Teachers of Connecticut, and 314 Action Fund, which has a mission of electing more scientists. (Needleman has math degree.) He was also one of four legislators ― two Democrats and two Republicans ― the Connecticut Council of Small Towns selected for its 2022 Town Crier Award.
Goff has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police and has a Pro 2A rating from the Connecticut Citizens Defense League.
Differing on police accountability, salary increases and voting expansions
Goff said he’s a “big fan of body cameras on police” and “all for training” but would have voted against the police accountability bill passed in 2020. He said it isn’t making police departments better and he doesn’t like more legislation being forced on towns.
Needleman voted for the bill but said it tore him up inside, and he thinks the legislature needs to amend some of the mandates for very small departments and resident trooper towns.
Another area where Goff said he would have voted differently from Needleman is on a bill that increased the pay for legislators for the first time in more than two decades, from $28,000 to $40,000.
“I don’t think there’s many people in the state that have done a good enough job to get a raise, and this isn’t supposed to be a career,” Goff said. Needleman doesn’t accept a salary, benefits or pension as a legislator but felt the lack of an increase was unfair.
Needleman and Goff both agreed the 2020 election was conducted fairly and Joe Biden won, but they differ on voting reforms. Needleman supports no-excuse absentee voting and early voting, while Goff doesn’t support either, wanting to limit absentee voting to military personnel and people who physically can’t make it to the polls.
A question on the ballot in November reads, “Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to permit the General Assembly to provide for early voting?” Connecticut is one of only four states that does not offer in-person voting before Election Day.
Needleman said “we need to be responsive to the needs of the public, with people that have different work schedules” and he stands “on the side of making voting easier, end of statement.” Goff thinks early voting “adds too many complications to a very important process with a lot of people, and I don’t think we need to change it.”
Needleman voted in favor of House Bill 5414, which provides protections for out-of-state people receiving or performing abortions in Connecticut and expanded what medical providers could perform abortions.
“I’m still brought to tears by the decision, the Dobbs decision,” Needleman said, saying he thinks the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade “relegates people back to being second-class citizens, not having control over their own bodies, and I think that’s an appalling decision.”
He thinks state law has gotten abortion law right, in allowing termination of a pregnancy up until viability, and doesn’t think parents of a minor should have to be notified about an abortion.
Goff said he supports giving as many rights to states as possible and likes that the power has come back to the states, but he agrees with the 1990 Connecticut law codifying Roe v. Wade.
“I support abortion, and I will not do anything to limit that, to limit women’s rights, and I really don’t see why that should be a political issue to begin with,” Goff said. “I think that should really come down to the women who are needing the abortions ― wanting the abortions ― and the doctors and nurses performing it.”
Regarding the new law, Goff said he doesn’t care who is doing the procedure so long as it’s safe but voiced concern about liability for violating another state’s rules and doesn’t want the state “sticking its neck out.”