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Political newcomer takes on 20-year incumbent in Ridgefield state House race

Democrat Aimee Berger-Girvalo is challenging longtime Republican state Representative John Frey in the 111th District of Ridgefield.  She decided to run to provide a better path forward, and couldn't wait for someone else to provide that path.  She has a business background and is a volunteer and advocate in Ridgefield.  Berger-Girvalo has gone door-to-door and talked with residents about their concerns over the state's financial future, women's rights and health care costs.  She also wants to take on education funding and costs.


Frey was raised by a single mother after his father died unexpectedly.  He is in real estate and has represented Ridgefield since 1998.  He wants to continue working to improve the state's economy.  Frey cautioned about more big businesses moving out of Connecticut. 


The pair was asked about Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski's proposal to eliminate the income tax.  Frey has been on the Finance Committee since he was first elected.  Half of Connecticut's revenue comes from the income tax.  He says it can only be eliminated after adding 300,000 state residents.  Frey says it's a laudable goal, though.  Berger-Girvalo says that will create a huge hole in the budget.  She called for smart spending, but says the state is so far into the hole that the sales and property tax would have to double to fill that in. 


As for long-term solutions to solve Connecticut's fiscal woes, Berger-Girvalo says the devastating financial situation has been 20 years in the making.  She called for smarter spending, rather than random cuts.  Berger-Girvalo says vacant property and assets in Hartford can be sold off.  Berger-Girvalo noted that pensions are only 38-percent funded.  Frey says there's some low-hanging items that can be addressed first like higher paid employees, who have larger pensions.  He wants wage freezes and wants to remove health care benefits, pensions from collective bargaining.  Frey used the local example of police officers having pensions based a salary, unlike state trooper pensions being based on earned income, including overtime.  Frey says there are too many managers in state government and wants to eliminate some duplicate deputy commissioners.


Frey is a ranking member of the Transportation Bonding subcommittee.  He was critical of the busway from New Britain to Hartford and rail service from Hartford to Massachusetts.  Frey says the state should have focused instead on fixing dangerous bridges.  He opposes bringing electronic tolling to Connecticut.  Ridgefield's First Selectman has supported the idea of tolling the past, but Frey says not the proposals seen recently.  He adds that trucks already pay a fee based on miles traveled in Connecticut.  Frey added that transportation is the only area that Connecticut gets more back from the federal government, than sends.  He says the state gets $1.76 back for every dollar sent to D.C. on transportation.  Berger-Girvalo says there's no decision about how much to charge and how many gantries would be put in place.  She says commuters, students and seniors could pay less.  She also proposed lower weekend rates.  Frey called the transportation funding lockbox proposal ineffective. He says an amendment was defeated that would have put the money into the lockbox without having to go through the legislature, which would have prevented diversions.


The candidates were also asked about various gun-related issues.  Berger-Girvalo says ghost guns, 3D printed guns, should be banned.  She says right now laws are chasing technology, and legislators should anticipating technology.  Berger-Girvalo doesn't want to imagine the future, but that waiting years to regulate certain technologies is too long.  Frey's nieces and nephew attended Sandy Hook School on the day of the shooting and he says they have been diagnosed with PTSD.  He voted in favor of the gun restrictions signed into law after 12-14.  Frey cosponsored the ban on bump stock devices, which became law on October 1st.  He also introduced the bill to ban ghost guns, which was placed on the House calendar but never came up for a vote.


Frey voted for a bill supporting same-sex adoption.  Initially Connecticut had a bill for same-sex unions, not marriage.  Frey says he wishes he wouldn't have voted against that measure.  He added that he does regret voting for civil unions and did vote for the bill eventually codifying same-sex marriage.  Frey has officiated 20 same-sex marriages as a justice of the peace.  Berger-Girvalo says more should be done to combat hate crimes.  She says that applies to LGBTQ discrimination, but also anti-semitism.  She wants to education communities about marginalized groups and to embrace rights protecting LGBTQ groups.

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Brian Kilmeade

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