SOUTHINGTON - With Sen. Joe Markley running for lieutenant governor, Republican state Rep. Rob Sampson and Democrat Vicki Nardello are competing to represent the 16th District. Each has a distinct vision for the state’s future.
Sampson has represented the 80th state House District, which includes Southington and Wolcott, since 2011. He was elected in 2010 and has supported Markley’s campaign for lieutenant governor. Sampson calls Markley one of his best friends.
Nardello was a state Representative in the 89th District, which includes Bethany, Cheshire and Prospect, from 1995 to 2012. She also chaired the House Energy and Technology Committee for four years.
Since his election to the 80th District seat, Sampson said that his biggest accomplishment would be “bringing back the backbone” to the House Republican caucus.
“We are stronger now and more willing to fight for our agenda,” he said. “We were able to get a Republican budget to pass both chambers in 2017, with Republican and Democrat support. The governor did veto it, but it would have resulted in no taxes, it would have fully funded our state and it would have started us on a better path.”
Nardello cited several accomplishments she was proud of during her tenure. She said she received bipartisan support for creating firm standards for utility companies to follow after the 2011 Halloween nor’easter as well as sanctions if those standards were not met. Nardello also pushed for consumer protections with utility companies and helped to establish the Connecticut Green Bank.
“No one had done anything like the Green Bank before,” said Nardello. “Many municipalities were not able to provide the capital to get these energy saving projects started so we had to problem-solve and work out the details.”
Nardello said she also helped voters with individual issues that impacted their lives such as passing a bill that mandated that oral and intravenous chemotherapy is covered the same way.
“I worked across party lines to bring consensus and get results,” she said. “I represented the most Republican district for nine terms; I know how to work with Republicans.”
Sampson said his biggest goal for the state is to see Republicans take charge and change the state’s direction.
“We need a change. The same folks have been running the state for the past four decades,” he said. “We’ve had to deal with the same philosophy of growing state workers and benefits and having to pay for all kinds of entitlements - not just the ones that make sense. We don’t need bronze statues, we don’t need a state Board of Regents which didn’t exist 10 to 12 years ago and consists of 100 people who make over $200,000 a year and don’t teach a single child. This is just one example of bureaucracy run amok in Connecticut. The taxpayers can’t afford it.”
Nardello said her biggest goal if elected is to “fight to protect health care.”
“I am concerned that on the national level there is a move to take away coverage for people with pre-existing conditions,” she said. “Health care is critical for each and every person living in Connecticut and I think that this state will be on the forefront of holding the line.”
Sampson said Connecticut has many natural advantages which he said 25 years ago made Connecticut the envy of neighboring states. He said the state benefits from being located between New York and Boston and has a “wonderful climate and coastline.” He said Connecticut also has a lot of highly educated people.
“With all of that going for it, Connecticut should be leading the way but it is not,” said Sampson. “My goal is to make us a more attractive state to live, work and retire in across the board. Connecticut is one of the few states that taxes your pension and Social Security and we have high taxes as it is. College graduates are getting a fabulous education but then there are no jobs for them. We are not competing with surrounding states or the Southern states.”
Nardello agreed with Sampson that Connecticut has a highly educated workforce, a good quality of life and benefits from being situated between New York and Boston. She added that the state has also paid more attention to its parks and green spaces than other states and that people in Connecticut care about the environment.
Nardello argued that Connecticut has jobs available, but that people aren’t graduating with the training to fill positions. She said legislators need to work with business owners to determine their needs and make sure that curriculum reflects employers’ demand.
“We need to create sectors of excellence,” she said. “That is how we attract businesses and promote economic development. We can create advanced manufacturing centers and a Bioscience center like we have at Jackson Labs.”
Sampson said the biggest challenge for Connecticut will be trying to meet the state’s numerous financial obligations including pensions and benefits.
“State pensions and benefits make up about 40 percent of the state budget,” he said. “I think there is a willingness on the part of state employees to work with us on solving this, though. They know full well that the state can’t keep paying them what it is paying. This will likely be a decision guided by the governor in the executive office, though.”
Nardello said Connecticut’s biggest challenges include “improving quality of life, building more vibrant cities, having an affordable education system and keeping young people in the state.”
“In speaking with younger people, I’ve found that they don’t care as much about owning a home or owning a car today,” she said. “They are satisfied with an apartment and they are happy with cities that have a great deal of entertainment and things to do within walking distance.”
Sampson said his message to voters is that he will keep his promises.
“I have never broken a promise since I have been in office,” he said. “I know that the way forward is to make Connecticut a more competitive place to live, work and retire in and I have never and will never vote for a tax hike.”
Nardello encouraged people to vote for her because she has a “strong and successful track record” of “standing up to private interests who put their needs ahead of the taxpayers.”
“I’ll stand up for what’s right regardless of the party line,” she said. “My reputation precedes me. The energy lobby is one of the most aggressive groups at the Capitol and if I can stand up to them as chair of the Energy and Technology Committee for four years I can stand up to anyone.”
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.