There is an open state House seat in the 67th District of New Milford. The position is being vacated by Republican Cecilia Buck-Taylor, who is retiring after two terms. The race to succeed her features a Democratic Town Council member and a Republican youth sports coach.
Democrat Mary Jane Lundgren grew up in New Milford, worked at the Hospital for 46 years and she has a background in social work, with a specialty in legislative and political social work. After graduating from UConn with that Master's Degree, she ran for New Milford Town Council. She's been on the Council for 14 years and retired form her nursing job last year. She wants to go to Hartford to bring more resources to the community.
Republican William Buckbee is a longtime volunteer, justice of the peace and youth sports coach. He's served on the New Milford Sewer Commission and New Milford Homeless Shelter Coalition. The 44-year old is marketing director and fundraising coordinator for Harrybrooke Park. He's also been a volunteer firefighter. In that capacity, the 6-foot-3 man with a white beard has also played Santa Claus.
Education Cost Sharing formula changes will likely be made by the General Assembly in the coming session. Lundgren says it needs to become more equitable for all towns. She also wants more funding for special education. She wants the state to step up, because special education is costing all municipalities a lot. She wants to bring vocational technical programs to the northwest corner of the state. She says vo-tech schools are training students for the types of jobs that the state is trying to attract.
Buckbee wants to find more money to be allocated for different programs. He also wants to expand vocational schools to build on the state's workforce.
When it comes to transportation, Buckbee says the state must alleviate traffic. He says the proposed mileage tax is not the answer, but agreed that alternative methods should be reviewed. He says he would like to see the special Transportation Fund protected. He also suggested the state pursue commuter rail service again to bring new revenues to downtown business.
Lundgren says transportation infrastructure needs improvement. She supports the Governor's 30 year, $100 billion improvement plan. Lundgren says good highways are key for business to come in and for people who commute. She would like to see the Danbury Branch of Metro North expanded up to New Milford. She used to commute to school in New York City and says it's a service that would be fantastic for the district.
Lundgren has the backing of the Conservation League of Voters. Lundgren is concerned about air quality and water quality. She says the area around the Housatonic River is going to become a great recreational site in New Milford soon, and wants to see that protected. Lundgren also called Candlewood Lake a jewel of the community. She wants more funding form the state to protect the tourist industry generated by the lake. She is concerned about blue-green algae and zebra mussels. Lundgren has advocated for maintaining New Milford's share of funding for the Candlewood Lake Authority.
Buckbee called for protecting natural resources. Buckbee also would like to see an increased tourism campaign to promote the beauty of Candlewood Lake.
Heroin and opiate addiction is a topic of concern as the epidemic spreads. Buckbee says opiate usage is causing overdoses at an alarming rate statewide. He wants the state to continue to work with mental health professionals, hospitals and counselors along with law enforcement to stem the tide. Buckbee also called for an increase in the penalty for opioid dealers.
When it comes to improving mental health services, Lundgren says there is a lot of room for improvement. She called for more community access, more community programs and an increase in places where people can go for counseling. She says making improvements in this area is vital.
On the topic of firearms, Buckbee says more laws on gun owners is not the solution, but enforcement is the right step. He says greater public safety has to be done while ensuring the rights of gun owners are left intact.
While out walking in the district, Lundgren says a lot of people are talking about health care. She says people in Access Health CT are struggling to pay for insurance plans. She would like to look into how to lower the prices.
Buckbee says he's fiscally conservative and wants to work in a bipartisan manner to help New Milford residents. He says the key to getting anything done though is compromise. Buckbee says the only way out of the perpetual state deficit is long term structural change. He says if that is not addressed, the state cannot sustain, let alone grow. He called for no new tax increases. He was critical of what he called the “corporate welfare” handed out from the governor in bond issuance as an incentive for businesses to stay in Connecticut.