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Freshman lawmaker challenged by former First Selectman in 24th state Senate district

A freshman lawmaker is being challenged by a former First Selectman in the 24th state Senate district, which includes Danbury, part of Bethel, New Fairfield, and Sherman.  Democratic incumbent Julie Kushner faces a challenge from Republican Susan Chapman.

Kushner is touting her record during the past two years in accomplishing campaign promises.  She cited the new Paid Family Medical Leave program, an increase in the state minimum wage, and gun safety bills.  Chapman decided to run because she believes the legislature needs more people with municipal experience who understand the impact on cities and towns of the decisions that are made at the capitol.  Her priorities include repealing the police bill, getting a proposed charter school in Danbury funded and making the state affordable again.

Kushner says she was personally involved in helping the Governor establish safe store reopening plans.  While the session ended early, she says the work didn't end.  During that time back in the district, Kushner says she helped people get unemployment benefits, worked with the United Way to help people get needed medicine and other related issues.  She wants to focus next session on protecting residents and employees of long term care facilities and plan for the economic recovery.  Chapman says most people are happy with how the Governor has handled the pandemic.  She called for more guidance on how businesses can move forward and get people back to work. 

Kushner touted more funding being included in the biennium budget for the Danbury school system.  She also was pleased that the legislature voted in special session on school funding requests for Danbury and New Fairfield.  Chapman supports a proposed charter school in Danbury.  She notes that the Prospect School has a donor willing to give $25 million to get the facility up and running. 

As Vice Chair of the Environment Committee, Kushner says she wants to continue advocating for Candlewood Lake.  In 2019 she helped pass an Invasive Species Stamp bill that will direct funding to efforts to fight invasive species.  She notes that there was so much use of the water this summer and the Lake Authority now needs to replace two vessels.  That also brought quality of life complaints for shoreline residents. She wants to address noise on the lake.  Chapman wants the shoreline towns to follow their septic plans.  She touted New Fairfield's successful septic walk over program.  She says towns water management programs also need to be followed. 

The candidates both oppose tolling.  Kushner feels infrastructure is important to address in the next session, but doesn't see the toll issue coming back.  Kushner says the state needs to be strategic about economic development, and infrastructure makes sure Connecticut can function. Chapman says the money meant for the Special Transportation Fund needs to actually make it into that lockbox.

With more people working from home, there's lower demand for Metro North, but Kushner says progress should be made to make the commute safer. She commuted for many years and supports measures to make transportation as safe as possible.  Chapman says anything to improve public transportation is worth looking into.  She would support measures to improve rail travel in the state.

Chapman doesn't think total repeal of the police accountability bill is feasible and acknowledged that having more training for officer isn't a bad portion of the bill.  She wants to look at qualified immunity.  She called it an added cost to the town to insure officers.  Chapman thinks it's a backdoor way to defund the police because of unfunded mandates.  Kushner met with a number of Police Chiefs and police union members about the accountability bill passed in special session.  If there are changes that are needed, there will be an opportunity in the next session to accomplish that.  She wants a bill that works for everyone and believes the measure was done in good faith.

On the utility accountability bill, Kushner says she was pleased with the bill that passed in special session.  She is glad that PURA will have more authority over rate increases.  Kushner was outspoken about the Eversource response to the region after the August tropical storm.  Chapman wants to find a way to make electricity more affordable because it's not a luxury.  She says lawmakers need to be more aware of the laws they pass so it doesn't boomerang back on ratepayers, citing the Eversource reasoning behind the summer rate hike that they were required to contract to buy power from the Millstone Power Station.  Chapman also wants to cap executive pay and hold utilities accountable when there's long response time to storms.

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