WALLINGFORD — Democratic candidates for the 34th Senate District will participate in a forum next week, days before the primary election to decide who challenges Senate Republican leader Len Fasano in November.
Aili McKeen, of Wallingford, won the endorsement in May of local Democrats by just two delegates over East Haven resident Josh Balter. Balter qualified for the primary.
The League of Women Voters of Hamden-North Haven is hosting a forum with Balter and McKeen from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Aug. 9 at the North Haven Public Library.
McKeen works as an inventory specialist for a public insurance adjuster and Balter is a 20-year U.S. Navy veteran who is now a Branford-based lawyer specializing in family law. Both are running for office for the first time.
The 34th Senate District comprises Wallingford, East Haven, and parts of North Haven and Durham.McKeen
Since her Democratic endorsement, McKeen said Tuesday, she and her campaign team have knocked on approximately 5,000 doors while canvassing in the district’s four towns.
McKeen said her strengths as a candidate come from her blue-collar background.
“We need more diversity in the legislature,” she said. “Not just race, ethnicity or gender, but in life experience, more ways of thinking, and economic diversity.”
It wasn’t on her radar to run for office at first, she said, but she often visited Hartford to testify on bills she cared about, lobbying on her own.
“It was really frustrating for me to watch really good bills die,” she said, “or to see harmful bills pass or almost pass.”
She said she wants to bring marginalized voices into the Capital.
“I don’t want to speak for people,” she said. “I want to help others speak.”Balter
Balter said he began his grassroots campaign in January, knocking on 2,000 doors himself with the goal of more than 20,000 doors by November.
“It’s getting out, meeting people,” he said, “answering their questions.”
He said he believes Connecticut is a “fantastic state, and there are things that can be done to fix the problems we have that Fasano and the Republicans are just blocking.”
He said his military background, professional skills and solid plan of how to increase state revenue make him the best candidate to beat Fasano.
As a retired Navy chief and combat veteran who was injured in Iraq, he said he can reach across party lines, and as a lawyer, he knows how to stand firm on his opinions while listening to the other side.
“Almost every time I am out canvassing,” he said, “Democrats, Republicans and independents are promising to vote for me in the general election.”
He laid out a three-point plan for increasing state revenue that consists of installing electronic road tolls, legalizing marijuana and closing the carried interest loophole in tax law.
“My platform will take care of all and people see that, they know I care,” he said.
An endorsement from gun control group Moms Demand Action-CT separates him from McKeen, an avid hunter and member of Connecticut Citizens Defense League, a Second Amendment-rights group.
He said he testified on banning ghost guns and bump stocks, and his stance on gun control and safety is consistent with the progressive values he’s run on “from day one.”
“It’s not enough to just make promises,” he said. “People know they can trust me.”