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    Monday, May 29, 2023

    Four-term incumbent faces first-time challenger in reconfigured 47th District House race

    The 47th state House District shrank from nine to eight towns with 2020 Census redistricting, but the sprawling district still more resembles a Senate district, stretching from Chaplin to the northern portion of Norwich.

    Media coverage is sparse in the upper region, leaving four-term incumbent Republican Doug Dubitsky of Chaplin and Democratic opponent Dave Nowakowski of Lisbon, also endorsed by the Working Families Party, with the challenge of trying to get their message out to voters. The district includes Chaplin, Scotland, Canterbury, Sprague and portions of Lisbon, Plainfield, Brooklyn and Norwich.

    “Getting from one end to the other takes an hour,” Dubitsky said.

    The candidates both are active in their hometowns while campaigning for the House seat. Dubitsky is chairman of the Chaplin Planning and Zoning Commission, and Nowakowski is in the middle of his second, six-year term on the Lisbon Board of Education.

    Dubitsky, 59, an attorney specializing in land use, Constitutional law, farming and civil rights litigation, will complete his eighth year in the state legislature this fall. He and his wife, Maarita, have two daughters, ages 18 and 20.

    As an attorney, Dubitsky and fellow conservative Republican legislator, state Rep. Craig Fishbein, have represented entities that have filed suit against the state challenging pandemic mask mandates and other executive orders issued by Gov. Ned Lamont during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    On Sept. 30, Dubitsky was one of the attorneys representing the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, the Second Amendment Foundation and three residents in a federal lawsuit challenging the state ban on assault -type weapons, including AR-15 semi-automatic rifles.

    Nowakowski, 57, and his wife, Jennifer, have owned Sunfox Campground in Lisbon for the past nine years. Nowakowski is a former teacher in Griswold. He and his wife have four children ranging in age from 9 to 15.

    Nowakowski said he has been interested in running for state legislature for some time, and the redistricting of the 47th District to remove Hampton, hometown of Dubitsky’s three-time Democratic opponent, Kate Donnelly, opened the door.

    Nowakowski said eastern Connecticut’s conservative Republican legislators give the region a “limited voice” in Hartford, because they are seen as too extreme and do not have the backing of the majority.

    The two candidates differed on some key issues and agreed on others.

    They split on the statewide referendum question on the Nov. 8 ballot. The question asks whether the state Constitution should be amended to allow the legislature to pass a law allowing for in-person early voting.

    Dubitsky said he supports accommodations for people who cannot make it to the polls on Election Day, but he favors having “an election day, not an election month.” Dubitsky said extending no-excuse early voting would be problematic. He said news about issues or candidates could arise shortly before the election that could change voters’ minds. A candidate could drop out or even die during early voting, Dubitsky said.

    “We really should try to have an election day,” Dubitsky said. “We should make accommodations for people who can’t, for one reason or another, if they’re out of town, or if they’re sick or if they’re tending to somebody who is disabled, things like that. I see no reason to stretch an election out for over a month and have not heard a good explanation.”

    Nowakowski supports allowing early voting, saying it is one area where Connecticut is lagging other states in making it easier for people to vote. He said other states allow unrestricted voting by mail, and he would prefer if Connecticut allows the counting of mail-in ballots to begin early election day, to avoid sudden shifts in early results that give people the false impression of irregularities, although they are “legal and fair” ballots.

    “Anything that eases the ability of registered voters to vote, I’m fully in support of,” Nowakowski said.

    The candidates agreed that a portion of the state’s $4 billion rainy day fund should be used to pay down the outstanding pension debt. Dubitsky credited 2020 legislative Republicans for building up the state surplus. At the time, Democrats and Republicans were evenly split in the state Senate, and Republican budget initiatives on spending caps and protecting dedicated revenue from being diverted prevailed, even after an initial veto by Lamont.

    Nowakowski said he hopes to concentrate on “common sense” issues, such as jobs for eastern Connecticut, with Norwich as a hub for high-paying jobs, perhaps with the proposed new business park in Norwich.

    The 47th District includes the Occum area of Norwich, where the Norwich Community Development Corp. and Norwich Public Utilities are working to create a 384-acre second Norwich business park. Dubbed Business Park North, the $24 million project includes the $3.55 million purchase price and infrastructure development.

    Dubitsky would not favor state funding for the park. He questioned state ownership of properties such as State Pier in New London and state maintenance control of the XL Center in Hartford. He said the state should sell State Pier to the wind power development partnership of Eversource and Ørsted and “give” the XL Center to a private entity to develop and run.

    “If there is somebody who is interested in developing it, I’m all for it,” Dubitsky said of the proposed Norwich business park. “If the city of Norwich has the money or can get the money to do it, great. I’m not a big one for having local or state governments own a lot of things.”


    This version corrects Dubitsky’s statement that the state should sell State Pier to the wind power developers.

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