WALLINGFORD — Two Democrats have announced their intention to run against Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano in the 34th district this fall, meaning Fasano will likely have his first opponent since 2012.
AiliMcKeen, of Wallingford, and Josh Balter, of East Haven, will compete for the Democratic nomination, a race that may not be decided until August’s primary.
Fasano, a North Haven resident, defeated Democrat Steve Fontana in 2012, receiving 58 percent of votes. He was first elected to the seat in November 2003.
McKeen works as a inventory specialist for a public insurance adjuster and has “been an advocate for several causes over the last decade or so,” including labor and workers’ rights issues, environmental conservation and farmland preservation.
After serving 20 years in the U.S. Navy, Balter began a career as a lawyer in Branford, specializing in family law.
Both Democrats, who are running for public office for the first time, said they were compelled to run by their own displeasure with the state legislature.
“I’ve seen an increasing dysfunction in the legislature and it’s really crippling our government,” McKeen said.
“I said, ‘I can't take it anymore. It's time to put up or shut up,’” Balter said.
If elected, Balter and McKeen both said they would look to solve the state’s financial woes.
“There are some things I want to cut, but mostly I want to raise revenue in ways that do not hurt the residents of Connecticut,” Balter said.
Balter, who served as a medical specialist in the Navy, said he “almost 100 percent” supports the legalization of marijuana. Marijuanna offers medical benefits, Balter said, but added he wants to make sure it doesn’t get in the hands of childrens.
“I want it to be regulated like alcohol,” he said. “I want to tax the heck out of it, but I would give tax breaks for medical use.”
McKeen said she would promote industrial growth of hemp, which currently can’t be grown in Connecticut because marijuana is illegal.
“Hemp is great for fiber and hemp is great for oil and biofuel,” she said. “We can't make use of this great crop that actually built America because marijuana is illegal.”
Balter also wants to add highway tolls in ways that pose the lowest cost to Connecticut residents, while McKeen said she would “probably” support tolls.
While the federal government prohibits states from implementing border tolls, Balter said he would look to “concentrate the tolls as much as legally possible along the borders” at interstates 95 and 84, while putting the “bare minimum amount of tolls along (interstates) 95 and 84 within the state.” Balter also wants to give Connecticut residents a steep discount.
Fasano questioned how much revenue tolls would produce.
“Nobody knows whether the tolls can make money or not, and anyone that tells you differently hasn't read the material,” Fasano said.
Fasano also said he doesn’t support legalization of marijuana, citing studies that show alcohol sales and alcoholism rates rose in Colorado after the state voted to legalize marijuana.
While Fasanohasn’t made a formal announcement about his bid for re-election, he said he has filed paperwork and plans to run again. Fasano did announce last August that he won’t join the crowded field looking to run for governor.