A political newcomer and a former Selectman are vying to fill an empty legislative seat in Bethel. The 2nd State House District seat is being vacated by Dan Carter. Democrat Raghib Allie-Brennan and Republican Will Duff are each seeking to be the area's next legislator.
Allie-Brennan grew up in Bethel, went to St. Mary's Church and did mission trips across the country. During his senior year at Mary Mount Manhattan College, he took a course on natural disasters, with a focus on Hurricane Katrina. He became passionate about protecting cities below the sea level, Homeland Security and government oversight. Allie-Brennan served on the Bethel Inland Wetlands Committee. He also worked as a legislative aide in Washington, DC.
Duff is a former member of the Boards of Education, Selectmen and Tax Review. He says the state has been taking advantage of residents, and notes that area towns aren't getting their moneys worth out of Hartford.
Allie-Brennan says millennials, seniors, middle class families and businesses are all being pushed out. He wants to go to Hartford to shake things up because the majority incumbents have dropped the ball. Allie-Brennan says the welfare of the state is at stake.
Duff says Connecticut is one of only four states that tax social security income and pension revenue. He called it immoral and says he wants to eliminate that tax. He also wants to look at affordable housing laws to strengthen municipal sovereignty over zoning decisions.
Education reforms will be a big topic in the coming session. Allie-Brennan says good schools attract more families. He says Bethel has a great special education program, but there's a lack of funds. He says fighting for funding fairness will be one of his top priorities.
Duff says there is no concrete formula to the Education Cost Sharing money. He says the ECS is robbing towns like Danbury and Bethel. He says every child is equal and deserves the same amount of funding.
When it comes to transportation infrastructure improvements, Duff says the big problem is that there is no more money. He says bridges and road aren't the only infrastructure in need of upgrading. He wants to the full Danbury branch line of Metro North to be electrified. Duff says the idea of a mileage tax is insane. He doesn't want to raise the gasoline tax anymore.
In order to attract business to Connecticut, Allie-Brennan wants to have more walkable communities and better rail service. He says the Bethel Train Station is very crowded and would like to make the most of the current resources. He called for Metro North to double track, electrify and move people in and out as quickly as possible. He notes that traffic congestion is a deterrence to business growth. He wants to study how to fund infrastructure improvements. Allie-Brennan also called for the Transportation Fund to be used only for transportation projects.
Duff says the experiment over the last six years of the state taxing itself into prosperity has been a failure. He wants to look at why Connecticut is so expensive to do business. He says there are layers of taxes that are prohibitive. Duff says simplifying the tax code is a major part of it. But he also called for severe cuts to stop the cycle of deficits year after year.
Allie-Brennan says it's unfortunate that Connecticut is in a place where the state has to aggressively incentivize businesses. But he says through energy grants, tax incentives or equipment grants can be incentives for businesses.
Opioid addiction needs to be addressed as well, according to Duff. He called it an epidemic that affects entire families. He says there are programs that need better funding to help end the opioid addiction.
Allie-Brennan says he's been going door to door in the district to see what the priorities of the constituents are, because he wants to represent their agenda and not impose his own priorities. A topic he sees a place for bipartisanship work is on Transit Oriented Development. He says good families are attracted to Bethel and more jobs need to be attracted to help keep families in town.
Duff says the race is one of experience. He says that's the key to being a good legislator in Hartford.
When it comes to the recently enacted gun laws, Allie-Brennan says he doesn't want to turn the clock backwards. He says people he's talked to want to move forward. He says that includes talking about mental health care.