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    Friday, August 19, 2022

    Urban, Mullane spar over budget, guns, marijuana in 43rd District debate

    Stonington — Eight-term incumbent Democratic state Rep. Diana Urban and her Republican opponent, former North Stonington First Selectman Nick Mullane, faced off Thursday night in the first of what will be two debates in the race for the 43rd District seat.

    During the debate at the Stonington Community Center, which was sponsored by the Stonington Community Forum Facebook page, the Westerly Sun and the League of Women Voters, the candidates discussed issues such as the state budget, gun control, marijuana legalization, transportation and education reform.

    Mullane opened by saying “we have a perfect storm in Connecticut. We’re broke. I mean seriously. The challenge will be the next budget.”

    He added the state needs to undertake tax and workers compensation reform, improve the business climate and eliminate many burdensome regulations that hurt businesses. He did not offer specifics.

    “The present Democratic leadership in the House and Senate are entrenched in their old ways. They won’t change. They need to be removed,” he said.

    Urban said the state faces serious challenges and needs an experienced state legislator who can work with members of the other party and consistently can get her bills to a vote. She pointed to her ability to restore state education aid for Stonington and North Stonington this year, her work on the Children’s Committee, obtaining $300,000 in funding for the North Stonington emergency services building and helping bring attention to how Amistad America spent $9 million in state aid.

    During discussion of this week’s deal to provide $220 million in assistance to Sikorsky to keep its operations in Connecticut, Urban defended the deal and pointed to all the suppliers and small businesses that will benefit from it.

    Mullane said if the state had its house in order, such a deal would not have been necessary.

    “We’ve not done the proper things and made the hard choices,” he said.

    Urban said she opposes adding lanes to Interstate 95 in southeastern Connecticut and supports expanding rail service as in other countries. Mullane also opposed adding lanes but said work is needed to improve safety in the East Lyme area.

    Mullane opposes legalizing marijuana for recreational use but Urban, who said she saw the benefits of medical marijuana while chairing the legislature’s Children’s Committee, said she is open to listening to arguments about legalizing recreational use. If it was made legal, she said, the state should “tax the hell out of it.”

    Both candidates said they are supporters of the Second Amendment but oppose ownership of AR-15 rifles and similar guns.

    As for cutting the budget, Urban pointed to her long battle to get state agencies to adopt results-based budgeting, which requires them to produce data that prove a program works in order to get funded instead of just building on previous budgets. The method has been implemented on a limited basis. Mullane said that when he was in the military and worked at Electric Boat, people had 15 seconds to defend an expenditure or see it eliminated or changed.

    The Day will sponsor an online lunchtime debate between the two candidates starting at 1 p.m. Oct. 25.

    The 43rd District comprises Stonington and North Stonington. Both candidates live in North Stonington, where Mullane is on the Board of Selectmen and served 30 years as first selectman before deciding not to run for the position last fall.

    j.wojtas@theday.com

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