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Open race in 108th state House district

There's an open state House seat in the 108th district of New Fairfield and parts of New Milford, Danbury and Sherman.  Republican Patrick Callahan and Democrat Dannette Onofrio are both vying for the position to succeed Richard Smith.

Callahan is a WCSU graduate who coached sports at Immaculate High School and led the Candlewood Lake Authority.  He works for the Connecticut Judicial Department and chairs the Adult Probation Department of the Danbury Judicial District.  He's been in law enforcement for the last 27 years.

Onofrio is a business owner with a Masters degree in Public Administration.  She is an Adjunct Instructor in the Marist College School of Management and a volunteer with Western Connecticut SCORE.  She is running for office because of the pandemic's impact on business and health.

When it comes to Candlewood Lake, Callahan says there was a significant increase in people using the lake because the pandemic closed community pools.  He says there's no one patrolling the islands, which led to large crowds.  He wants town police officers to be enabled to enforce health and safety laws on the islands.  Callahan says the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection was at the boat launches at 8am, but they need to be there earlier.  He notes that DEEP and the CLA are both working on tight budgets with staff shortages.  He notes that it was a good water quality year on the lake, despite the increased traffic.  He advocates for continued deep drawdown to kill milfoil and for vigilance to prevent the spread of zebra mussels. 

Onofrio started an environmental advisory committee and held a Watershed and Lake Symposium forum.  She says noise has been a big issues this year.  Onofrio touted a noise ordinance that was included in an Invasive Species Stamp bill approved by lawmakers last year.  She wants to help the towns purchase two new boats for the Candlewood Lake Authority so they can continue enforcement next summer. 

There were limitations at Squantz Pond this year due to the pandemic and there may be again next summer.  Onofrio says if there's not enough parking, there needs to be safety enforcement.  Callahan says signs are not enough to prevent parking on Route 39 and walking in.  He plans to advocate for legislation that will better control who goes into the state parks. 

Both oppose tolls. Callahan says residents are taxed too much, and pay too much for utilities.  Callahan wants to stem the exodus from Connecticut of seniors and new college graduates.  He called on the state to cut wasteful spending rather than adding expenses to taxpayers plates.  Onofrio supports a study to improve pedestrian and bike transportation between Danbury and New Fairfield along Route 37.  She believes highway improvements infrastructure upgrades are a way to put people back to work at a time where a lot of people are out of work.

Soon after the August tropical storm, Onofrio gave testimony to PURA about utility response. She called for a rate freeze for Eversource, and supports restitution for food and medicine after prolonged power outages.  Onofrio wants backup generators for facilities housing people with medical issues and for minimum staffing in Connecticut.  Callahan says the utility fee increase really caused problem for residents.  He testified before the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority about the situation this summer.  He wants to wait to see if the bill passed in special session actually holds the utilities accountable to the ratepayers.

On the police accountability bill, Callahan says the legislature shouldn't have made a knee jerk reaction to something that happened halfway across the country.  He wants the bill revisited because of qualified immunity and the ban on military surplus purchasing.  Onofrio says she has family and friends in the law enforcement field.  But she says there should be accountability to remove rogue cops from the streets.  Onofrio says it's not an 'either, or' situation.

If there's any advice to give to the Governor on the pandemic, Callahan says consumers and business owners shouldn't be punished with another round of closures.  He wants businesses and residents to follow safety measures currently in place and not overreact to slow upticks.  Onofrio says most people she's spoken to believe the state has done a good job handling the response to the pandemic. She wants to fight for affordable public health insurance options now that so many people are unemployed and no longer have access to insurance through work.  Onofrio says the district does have areas of connectivity lapses.  She wants to work to bring more reliable internet and phone service to the region.

Callahan says it's been a different year to campaign, not wanting to invade people's safe havens during this pandemic.  But he's held virtual events to get word out about this race.  Onofrio has made calls and gone door to door during the campaign.

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Jim Bohannon

Local Headlines