Senate: 33rd District

REPLAY OF DEBATE

CANDIDATES

Emily Bjornberg, Democrat

Occupation

Director of Youth & Family Ministry

Town

Lyme

Incumbent

No

Contact

Phone: 860-598-0309

Email: emily4ct@gmail.com

Age (as of Nov. 4, 2014)

33

Family

I live in Lyme with my husband Jason, an Iraq War veteran, and my two children Elliot (age 8) and Anna (age 4). My extended family has run the same business, Reynolds' Garage & Marine, on Hamburg Cove in Lyme for seven generations.

Education

Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA Graduate of Lyme-Old Lyme High School

Civic Involvement

I have served as a member of the Lyme Land Conservation trust since 2008, helping the Town of Lyme to successfully conserve a higher percentage of its total land area than any other Connecticut town. While my husband served in the National Guard in Baghdad, Iraq, I managed an AIDs clinic in downtown Johannesburg, South Africa to help tend to the needs of sick and dying in that city, with the help of many refugees who had fled over the border from Zimbabwe. I co-founded a 501(c)3 non-profit named Beyond Boundaries to work with Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang Camp Association to provide outdoor wilderness experiences for children living with serious illness. Through my employment at the Deep River Congregational Church, I work to shed light on many of the issues of social justice that exist right here in the lower CT River Valley. For instance, we work closely with the CT Coalition to End Homelessness and "An End in Ten" on a county-wide annual effort called the Homeless Sleepout.

Elected/appointed offices held

This is my first run for public office. I believe we need some new voices at the State Capitol.

Other government service

I serve as the member of the Lyme Democratic Town Committee and the Lyme PTO, and I am also a Justice of the Peace.

What makes you the best candidate for this office?

When my husband was marched off to war in the early days of the Iraq invasion, I learned firsthand what it looks like when politicians fail to stand up for our best interest. My family and I worried every day for fifteen months about Jason's safety, and I consider myself incredibly fortunate because he did come back to me. We now have a home in the town I grew up in, and two healthy children who attend our public schools. I have everything I ever asked for, and now I hope to give something back to the community I hold dear. I have deep roots in the lower Connecticut River Valley. I come from a family that has run the same small business here, Reynolds' Garage & Marine, for seven generations. As a result I have great respect for small businesses - the true economic engines within our small towns. Too often the state is focused on the needs of big corporations that can afford lobbyists in Hartford and teams of lawyers and accountants to untangle or rewrite complex regulations and red tape to suit their needs. Our small businesses need a stronger voice. They also face property taxes that are too high, and attempts to unravel key initiatives like grant and loan programs that help support growth in an economy that remains very difficult. For instance, my Republican opponent's company accepted $350,000 in state funds through just such a program in 2012. Yet less than a year later, he voted to shut down that initiative and deny the same opportunity to other companies. Just weeks ago, he stated that he did this because businesses no longer needed the help. We deserve representation that is more in touch with the real problems in our economy.

Estimates of the state's unfunded pension and benefit liability for retired teachers and state employees are in the tens of billions of dollars. Should the state continue offering a defined benefit pension plan or switch to some type of 401(k) defined contribution plan, which has become standard in the private sector? Please explain why you do or do not support such a change.

Connecticut's past leaders have made a mess of the state's finances by failing to set aside sufficient funds to make good on our pension obligations. We need a more responsible approach, and that means making the required contributions to the pension fund every year, with regular catchup payments as the state's finances allow. The sooner this is done, the less it will cost us over the long run. We cannot escape these contractual pension obligations, and switching to a 401(k) type plan going forward would do nothing to reduce the burden of what is already owed to current and past state employees. That debt would still have to be paid. The error in state policy was a failure to make sufficient annual contributions to the pension fund, it is not with pensions themselves. The broader shift in the marketplace away from pensions toward 401(k) plans has not been good for the American middle class. The Washington Post recently reported that one in five Americans nearing retirement have zero dollars saved for retirement. Many more people are not much better off. This is a true crisis, and I could not support a policy that would place even more people in such dire circumstances. How many families saw their 401(k) savings cut in half, or worse, when the stock market crashed in 2008? Pensions offer much more stable, less risky retirement savings. We need to improve retirement savings options for workers in the private and public sectors alike, not limit them.

If a bill came before the General Assembly to repeal or amend the gun control law passed last session after the school shootings in Newtown, would you vote to amend the law? If so, what would you want to change?

My husband and I count ourselves as responsible gun owners, and we have no qualms with reasonable measures that support the safe use of guns and aim to keep weapons out of criminal hands. As a mother of two small children, I will never forget the horror of learning what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I think that the bill passed in 2013 was a great example of both parties coming together to forge a compromise in the aftermath of a real tragedy. We can and should be proud that kind of bipartisanship is possible in Connecticut. It proved impossible in gridlocked Washington, D.C. The Connecticut legislation addresses three areas of public policy, gun safety, school security and mental health. While there clearly remains more to be done in the area of mental health, this should not detract from the many positive steps the bill did take toward expanded access to mental health treatment and greater awareness of mental health issues within and outside of our schools. My opponent voted against the 2013 legislation, and I think that was a mistake. His Republican leader in the senate and his endorsed candidate for governor, John McKinney, actively participated in drafting the bill and also voted for it. It's no small wonder—Senator McKinney represents Newtown itself. The conversation going forward should not dwell on the legislation that has already passed. It should focus on how we can work to improve and expand access to the mental health services that so many people need, but cannot afford.

Art Linares, Republican

Endorsed - View The Day Editorial Endorsement

Occupation

Small Business Owner & State Senator

Town

Westbrook

Incumbent

Yes

Contact

Phone: 203-645-9215

Email: Senatorlinares2014@gmail.com

Age (as of Nov. 4, 2014)

26

Family

I have a wonderful family. My brother, sister, brother in-law, nephew and parents all live in Westbrook, CT. I come from a large family with many cousins, Uncles, Aunts and grandparents all who live in either Connecticut or New Jersey.

Education

John Sykes College of Business, University of Tampa

Civic Involvement

Fundraising for the shoreline food pantry, non-profits and public school systems.

Elected/appointed offices held

State Senator elected in 2012.

Other government service

Intern For United States Senator Marco Rubio

What makes you the best candidate for this office?

For the last two years I have worked tirelessly in the 33rd district visiting every town numerous of times, holding town hall meetings and listening to the people and their concerns. I have taken those concerns back to Hartford and used it as part of my decision making process on every issue. I have made it a priority to make sure that when it comes to constituency services my office is second to none. I have knocked on 5,000 doors this election cycle and the message from the people has always been the same - our taxes are getting out of control; Malloy and his political machine is made government to big and too intrusive; gasoline and heating oil prices are too high and our children cannot afford to stay here when they are ready to go on their own. These are issues from the residents that I understand too well and that is why I'm in Hartford, and with your blessing, I will stay there and continue to oppose overreaching policies that intrude on our rights as citizens and budgets that are bloated beyond the affordability of Connecticut residents. I have opposed both my own party and the opposition when I believed that the concerns of my district were not addressed in the legislation. We cannot let those that are married to the Malloy political machine go to Hartford and continue to support legislation based on the will of that political machine, without listening to those in their district. I have proven that I will not be swayed by anyone other than the voices of the 33rd district.

Estimates of the state's unfunded pension and benefit liability for retired teachers and state employees are in the tens of billions of dollars. Should the state continue offering a defined benefit pension plan or switch to some type of 401(k) defined contribution plan, which has become standard in the private sector? Please explain why you do or do not support such a change.

We should offer incentives to government employees to consider a 401 K pension plan. However, it should not be mandatory. We need to balance our budget and use any surplus to fund unfunded liabilities, such as the teacher's pension plan.

If a bill came before the General Assembly to repeal or amend the gun control law passed last session after the school shootings in Newtown, would you vote to amend the law? If so, what would you want to change?

I went to Newtown after the tragedy and listened to the parents of the children that were lost on that saddest of days and my prayers are with them every day as they struggle to cope with their loss. I also took time to carefully read the bill that would restrict our citizen's rights. I listened to the arguments on both sides and decided at the end to oppose a bill that was overreaching and did nothing to reduce the level of crime in our cities and towns. It was a bill void of any real action on the crucial issue of Mental Health that the Malloy political machine refused to address. It was a bill without any public hearings and did not listen to the voices of the residents. In the end, it was a bad bill. I rather vote no on a bad bill than to vote yes on a bill just because it is popular at the moment. I owe at least that much to the people that elected me. If given the opportunity, I will always repeal a bill that was written without the input of the people it would directly affect.

Colin Bennett, Green

Occupation

Environmental Organizer and Educator

Town

Westbrook

Incumbent

No

Contact

Phone: 860-395-8392

Email: colinbennettforsenate@gmail.com

Age (as of Nov. 4, 2014)

35

Family

Daughter: Daisy, 15

Education

B.S. from Southern Connecticut State University

Civic Involvement

· 350 Connecticut Steering Committee- January 2012- Present · The Climate Project Presenter, An Inconvenient Truth Slideshow- December 2006-Present Assistant District Manager for New England- September 2007-December 2008 · Sierra Student Coalition Connecticut Co-coordinator- 2004-2007 Northeast Regional Coordinator- 2005-2007 Environmental Justice Committee- 2005-2007 Committee Chair- October 2005-August 2006 Elected Member, Executive Committee- 2005-2006 Trainer, Student Environmental Leadership Program- July 2005, 2007 · The Climate Campaign Elected Member, Steering Committee- 2005-2006 · The Sierra Club Gulf Coast Environmental Restoration Task Force- 2005-2006 Dismantling Racism Workshop Facilitator- October 2006-Present Global Population Program Volunteer- February 2008-December 2009 Diversity Support Team- April 2011-Present · Saint Bernard High School Advisor, after-school environmental club- 2004-2005 · United Nations Environment Programme Action Circle Leader, Children's Conference on the Environment- July 2004 · Maritime Education Network Education Intern- Spring 2003 · Southern Connecticut State University, Environmental Futurists Active Member- 2000-2008 President- 2001-2002 Outreach Coordinator- 2006-2008 · Southern Connecticut State University, Organic Garden Project Co-Founder and Garden Manager- April 2007-September 2008 · Southern Connecticut State University, Bicycle Sharing Program Co-Founder and Coordinator- August 2008 · Campus Progress Student Representative, SCSU- 2007-2008 · United Nations Conference of the Parties, Montreal Official Observer- November 2005

Elected/appointed offices held

Town of Westbrook- Justice of the Peace­, 2005­- 2008, January 2013­ Present Westbrook Volunteer Fire Company- Firefighter­, 2002 ­2006 Town of Westbrook- Elected Member, Forest Commission­, 2004­- 2008

Other government service

Marine Science Technician, United States Coast Guard Reserve, 2012- 2014

What makes you the best candidate for this office?

As a candidate I don't make many promises. Other candidates make promises all time, but how often do they actually deliver on those promises? To do so is, at best, disingenuous, and, at worst, outright deceitful. That's because there is very little that any candidate can to do to guarantee results if elected. Remember Obama's promise to close Guantanamo? How did that work out? I could spend hours giving examples of elected officials that failed to deliver on promises they made as candidates but to do so would be unnecessary; we all know that promises made by candidates are almost always completely useless. There is, however, one thing I can promise: as a candidate and as state senator, I wil never tell you something just because I think it's what you want to hear. You may not agree with me on an issue but I'm not going to lie to you. I'd much rather earn your respect and your vote by telling the truth, even if I know that you won't like it, than have you vote for me based on empty promises. Furthermore, no matter what, I will never bow to corporate lobbyists. (Spend time with me and you'll get a taste of my absolute hatred of corporations and their takeover of our country.) The thing is, this election is about more than me. It's about more than any of the individual candidates or the parties they represent. A state senator is tasked with making decisions on behalf of the people in their district; in order to make the best possible decisions it's essential to listen to their constituents. Elected officials should be accountable to the people, not corporations. Do you remember the mantra, ‘Of the people, by the people, for the people'? That actually means something to me.

Estimates of the state's unfunded pension and benefit liability for retired teachers and state employees are in the tens of billions of dollars. Should the state continue offering a defined benefit pension plan or switch to some type of 401(k) defined contribution plan, which has become standard in the private sector? Please explain why you do or do not support such a change.

Connecticut has lost its way in terms of how our state government functions, yet, I believe that by working together, using our legislature as the catalyst, we can balance our budget, bring jobs to Connecticut, ensure that our children are well educated, and have safe and healthy communities. I don't believe that big-government is the answer; I believe that smart government is the answer. Our government should be of the people, for the people, not by and for corporations (or those that seek only to serve special interests or the wealthy). That's why I run as a Green; the Green Party takes absolutely no money from corporations or special interest groups. That means when I am elected I will not be beholden to anyone but the residents of the 33rd district and the people of Connecticut. In order to address the issue of unfunded pensions we need to work together to find a sensible way to move forward. That said, I do not support mimicking the private sector to address this or any other problem. The role of our government is to serve us and that can't happen through privatization. There's a saying, "So goes California, so goes the nation." That means that California often paves the way for initiatives that are eventually adopted by other states. I think that the saying should be, "So goes Connecticut, so goes the nation." Connecticut is a great state, but it could be even better. With your help I will do everything I can to help our state live up to its full potential. When elected, I will to do my best to ensure that everyone in this district has a voice, (not every corporation or special interest group) and, that during my term, you'll see measurable improvements in your quality of life.

If a bill came before the General Assembly to repeal or amend the gun control law passed last session after the school shootings in Newtown, would you vote to amend the law? If so, what would you want to change?

The issue of gun control is far too complicated to answer in such a short space. What I can say is that the solutions that we come up with need to be made without the influence of corporate lobbyists or special interest groups. We need to make the safety of our children an absolute priority but that can't happen when corporations spend millions of dollars to push (or reject) legislation that would affect their profits. I absolutely reject the practice of raising and spending vast sums of money to run for public office. It's antithetical to the whole concept of public service and has largely destroyed our democracy (just think of the travesty that is Citizens United). As such, in my history as a candidate I've raised and spent very little or no money in each of my campaigns, never more than a thousand dollars. In this election my opponents are poised to raise and spend tens of thousands of dollars trying to get elected. Apparently they've bought into the asinine concept that the candidate with the most money is somehow the most qualified. In reality, the ability to fundraise has absolutely nothing to do with the ability to be an effective legislator, especially when so many campaign contributions come from corporations, PACs, and other special interest groups that are trying to buy influence with candidates. Until we fix this system (including overturning Citizens United) our political landscape is going to continuously and precipitously decline. Only in races with candidates that pledge not to participate in this farce of essentially buying elections will voters be able to elect representatives that are not beholden to the forces that are tearing this country apart. If you want a detailed response to the issue of gun control please email me at colinbennettforsenate@gmail.com. #BennettForSenate

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