October 31, 2018
The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce (GMCC) is located in a Cheney Mansion built by Frank Cheney, Manchester’s first fire chief. It’s situated at 20 Hartford Rd. close to Main St.
Early Wednesday morning the chamber, in partnership with AT&T, hosted a breakfast for people running for office. After eating breakfast provided by AT&T at the Shoppes at Buckland Hills and some time to wander around meeting people, April DiFalco, President of the GMCC asked everyone to sit down. The pre-election forum was set up with a panel of candidates facing the audience and a moderator, John Emra from AT&T.
The panelists seated from left to right were:
- Mark Tweedie (R), CT Senate District 4
- Thomas Tierney (R), CT House District 12
- Jennifer Fiereck (R), CT House District 13
- Jason Rojas (D), CT House District 9
- Geoff Luxenberg (D), CT House District 12
- Jason Doucette (D), CT House District 13
- Jeff Curry (D), CT House District 11
- Steve Cassano (D), CT Senate District 4
- Jennifer Nye (R), US House District 1
- Jeff Russell (G), US Senate
- John Larson (D), US House District 1
Each candidate had two minutes to introduce themselves. I took brief notes on the introductions that I will share here:
- John Larson is an incumbent U.S. Congressman who talked about being proud to be involved in a bi-partisan technology take-off that helped Sikorsky, Pratt & Whitney and Electric Boat in the state of CT. Also, he had a plan to fix and fund social security and talked about how it is unfair to women.
- Jeff Russell is the green party candidate. He isn’t worried about the U.S. running out of money because the U.S. is the source of money. Our debt is not actually a debt but represents the money supply. He is for universal health care.
- Jennifer Nye’s experience in office included a position on the Manchester Board of Directors. Running against John Larson to be a representative in the U.S. Congress she would support strong borders, legal immigration and term limits.
- Steve Cassano previously had served as deputy mayor and then mayor of Manchester. He is an incumbent running for office for the last time and is running against Mark Tweedie. He wants to fill manufacturing jobs at Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky and Electric Boat by providing training. He doesn’t think everyone needs to go to college and that junior high school is the place to begin to let students know about all of the career options.
- Jeff Curry is an incumbent who is running unopposed. His district includes the Buckland Hills area and East Hartford. He is concerned about crumbling foundations and as a state rep has been involved in a committee that will provide funding to homeowners whose foundations are deteriorating from pyrrhotite. There will be a rollout of funds which will be available in December to homeowners. He wants to improve the predictability of education funding so schools are not scrambling at the last minute or during the school year to fund teaching positions. He has championed LGBTQ rights.
- Jason Doucette is an attorney and small business owner running against Jennifer Fiereck. He started his own law practice and works with many small business owners.
- Geoff Luxenberg recognized local politicians Jay Moran, mayor of Manchester and Darryl Thames, Board of Education member who were in attendance in the audience. He also defended Chris Murphy who he felt had been unfairly attacked by Jennifer Nye because he has enrolled his children in school in D.C. Geoff defended Mr. Murphy’s decision to be involved in raising his family by moving them closer to where he spends most of his work days. Jennifer had questioned if Chris Murphy is still considered a CT resident.
- Jason Rojas is running for a 6th term. He serves as co-chair of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee and is a member of the Planning and Development Committee and works closely with the Appropriations Committee. There is much work to do but behind closed doors there is a bi-partisan effort to get things done for CT.
- Jennifer Fiereck is a political outsider who wants to make the world better for her children. She is a small business owner who supports term limits and doesn’t want additional burdens on the wealthy and big business.
- Tom Tierney is running as an unaffiliated candidate but has been supported by the Republicans.
- Mark Tweedie runs a dental lab that makes crowns and bridges. He believes business is the answer to our budget problems and we need less red tape which slows growth.
After each person spoke the candidates were asked questions; first by the moderator and then by the audience. The initial questions were on transportation and the crumbling infrastructure and how to fund both. John Larson is concerned that infrastructure funding has not increased for 8 years. He is an advocate for using federal funds to build two tunnels through Hartford to re-connect the city divided by I-84 and gain access to the riverfront cut off by I-91. Jennifer Nye does not want a tunnel but would go through the northend of Hartford.
Jason Doucette would fund infrastructure improvements by requiring tolls for out of state traffic. Steve Cassano supports a mix of spending. Mark Tweedie thought the cost of the tolls would be passed on to the consumer. Jeff Russell questioned if tolls were a violation of the commerce clause of the constitution.
Additional questions were asked about what has been done in the past year to train people to fill the 35,000 job vacancies at Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky and Electric Boat. Steve Cassano stated that a program was started in Jr. High Schools to get students interested in those careers and Jason Rojas indicated that money was re-allocated to workforce programs.
The final question was asked by Darryl Thames of the Manchester Board of Education. He mentioned that state funding for schools has diminished and requested that the candidates share their views of funding public education. Jeff Russell addressed this question by speaking strongly about the need for better leadership from the U.S. Department of Education. We need someone who supports students by getting rid of these ludicrous tests that are turning public education into child abuse. Geoff Luxenberg also spoke up in support of more funding for the public school system.
At that point we ran out of time. I went back later to speak to April DiFranco and get pictures of the building. Since Election Day is tomorrow I felt that sharing this information as soon as I could was important so please excuse any errors and please vote tomorrow.