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Local Republicans: It's about Connecticut, not just about Trump

Thousands of Connecticut residents have died, 3,700 Connecticut businesses have closed, more than 300,000 residents remain out of work, but the most important thing David Collins wants to know about candidates for the state legislature is not how we would address this crisis and the state’s ongoing problems but how we feel about Donald Trump. “…But most important I want to hear, no matter what party those candidates belong to, what they think another Trump term will mean for our country and our state….” Then he only gives us two sentences and 14 words for our response. Given the hundreds of column inches Mr. Collins has devoted to writing about this president, surely we deserve more space. 

In light of Mr. Collins’ obsession with Donald Trump, this particular request is hardly surprising. Feelings about this president are extreme, with both his opponents and his supporters vocal about their opinions We will never accept bullying, ad hominem attacks and vile rhetoric as part of normal political discourse, whether coming from the president or any politician — or columnist, for that matter. We will denounce the president on that score. It is troubling, however, that Mr. Collins is so fixated on all things Trump and Washington, D.C. that he chooses to ignore so many issues affecting Connecticut residents here at home today. 

Let’s get to the heart of the matter though. It is far easier for Democrats seeking state offices to run on Trump hatred and tying Republicans to a norm-breaking president than to campaign based on their 40-plus year legacy of failures in Connecticut. Even prior to the pandemic, we had an economy that was last in New England; lagged the rest of the country in terms of job creation and recovery from the last recession, with a loss of 3,300 jobs statewide in 2019; and was the third most indebted state in the nation in terms of bonded debt per taxpayer. In 2018-2019, it ranked 46th in terms of business creation by women and was among the lowest in the country for economic growth. Connecticut was also one of only 10 states to lose population in 2019. 

Even worse, where has the Democrat-controlled legislature been during the pandemic? They were very quick to rush through a bill holding police accountable, but where are they on holding Connecticut state agencies accountable? What are the committees they lead doing to address repeated departmental failures? The Department of Labor took months to pay out unemployment claims, has an estimated 130,000 overpayments, has suffered significantly from fraudulent claims, and still has not re-opened the Connecticut Job Centers. Sadly, 70% of all Connecticut deaths from COVID-19 occurred in nursing homes, in contrast to 40% of deaths nationwide. We should be focusing on a possible resurgence of the virus and the implementation of a comprehensive mitigation strategy plan to avoid any further casualties, not on our opinions of Donald Trump. Connecticut still suffers from nursing home outbreaks in our region. Republicans have been asking for 15 years for an increase in the Medicaid reimbursement rate for the frontline workers in these homes; our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. 

State employees in vital departments are for the most part still working remotely, while teachers, bus drivers, supermarket workers and many others are at their jobs. These are the same state employees who saw their pay increase in July, to the tune of $315 million to the state. Governor Lamont could have delayed these increases, as did his fellow Democrat governors in New York and California. Republicans urged him to do so, but Democrats in Hartford were silent. While hundreds of thousands of residents have lost their jobs, state employees are still protected by the no-layoff provision in the SEBAC deal approved in 2018 by the majority party. Rather than exercise their authority as a legislature, the Democrats have allowed the governor to outsource decisions on re-opening and department consolidations to an out-of-state consulting firm. 

As candidates and legislators from Southeastern Connecticut, we are united in our distaste for the president’s divisive and crude rhetoric. We are also united in our commitment to our constituents and to battling the policies of the majority party that continue to drive residents and businesses out of the state. This is more than two sentences and 14 words, Mr. Collins, but Connecticut voters deserve the facts, not a sound bite. 

State Senator Paul Formica, R-20; Rep. Devin Carney, R-23; Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-37; and Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-38, are running for re-election. Republican candidates seeking a first term are Brendan Saunders, in the 33rd District, Caleb Espinosa, in the 139th District, Lauren Gauthier, in the 40th District, and Kat Goulart, in the 39th District. 

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