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Political newcomer challenges youngest state Senator in race for 26th District

The youngest member of the state Senate is being challenged in his bid for reelection.  Democrat Will Haskell is facing Republican Kim Healy in the race for the 26th district, which covers Bethel, Redding, Ridgefield and Wilton among other municipalities.  During a League of Women Voters debate, the pair addressed a number of topics.

On the state's fiscal picture, Haskell touted the work to bolster the state's rainy day fund.  But Healy says there's mounting deficits in the next few years.  The CPA and auditor with PriceWaterhouse says every line item should be on the table for cuts in order to get the house in order.

The police accountability bill was also raised.  Haskell says the officers he knows do exceptional work, but there is a problem in other parts of Connecticut.  He supports implicit bias training, transparency in officer records and body cameras.  Haskell wants to address the criminal justice system next. 

Healy says the issue won't be solved overnight and says no one disputes that George Floyd was murdered.  She noted that her father was with the NYPD and her stepmother is a woman of color.  As for where there are issues in other parts of the state, Healy says those should be addressed locally.

Utility reform was also addressed.  Haskell says the grid is neither affordable nor reliable.  He touted the bill passed in special session that takes into account customer service, on the ground line crews, grid hardening, sustainability and executive compensation. 

Healy says the huge increases before the storm hit needs to be addressed.  She called for an independent consumer advocate as part of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority and for breaking up monopolies.

Haskell was the only member of the Greater Danbury area delegation to back the idea of tolls.  He says every other state around Connecticut asks out of state drivers and trucks to contribute to the upkeep of the roads.  He notes that right now 100 percent is paid for by Connecticut residents.  Haskell says a user fee coupled with trimming the fat at the DOT are the way to go. 

Healy opposes tolling.  She says the funds meant to go into the Special Transportation Fund lockbox isn't a constitutional lockbox so money still gets diverted.  She called for a public-private partnership to pay for infrastructure improvements, noting that Connecticut pays 5 times more per mile for road construction than any other state in the country. Haskell disputed that figure, saying the study treated 12 lane highways the same as a one lane country road.

As for the pandemic, Haskell acknowledged that Connecticut struggled early on, especially in nursing homes.  But he says there's an optimism now about this state that's contagious because of how Connecticut has done to contain the virus.  He urged people to keep up with physical distancing and wearing masks.  He touted local districts having the autonomy to make decisions about how and when to bring students back to school, using state manufacturers for masks and ventilators, and extended grants to businesses. 

Healy says schools have made good decisions on how to protect kids.  She wants to better engage seniors while protecting those with medical comorbidities.