COLUMN: Bartolomeo accuses Suzio of ‘preying on people’s fears’ to win senate seat

COLUMN: Bartolomeo accuses Suzio of ‘preying on people’s fears’ to win senate seat

Record-Journal


Our nation is just beginning to experience some peace and quiet after many months of campaign ugliness: lies, personal attacks, Facebook bullying and worse.

Never before has reading factual, unbiased information been more important. Yet the Oxford English Dictionary’s 2016 Word of the Year is “post-truth,” an adjective defined as “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Does this mean that dictionaries should now omit the word “fact”?

Nationally we have seen the frightening effect of “post-truths.” What we used to refer to as “the telephone game” has become a dangerous viral frenzy on social media. Fake news stories such as “PizzaGate,” “Pope Francis endorses Trump,” “FBI collaborator murdered,” and “Clinton sold weapons to ISIS” outperformed real news stories in the three months before the election by a margin of 1.5 million “shares, reactions, and comments,” according to BuzzFeed. My family and I have exited all Facebook Groups for this very reason.

Here in Connecticut, I was the target of one such “post-truth.” In the last week of the election, when there was no time to launch an equal response, Len Suzio’s taxpayer-funded mail pieces said “records show” I was “working behind closed doors” with Governor Malloy on a vehicle “mileage tax.” Additionally, he appeared in commercials thatimplied “Big Brother” would be watching our every move with “tracking devices” installed in residents’ cars.

Fact-check: I do not support the concept of a “mileage tax” and there are no records of me working behind closed doors with the governor because I never met with the governor to discuss a “mileage” or any other kind of tax.

Those who know me realize I am the last person who would approve “tracking devices” or “mileage taxes.” As a matter of fact, I refuse to lease any car because I will not have my privacy infringed upon or my annual mileage restricted.

I wanted to believe that the campaign tactic of preying upon people’s fears would be viewed negatively by voters, both at the local and national level. But based on the feedback I received after the election, it appears that many voters in the 13th Senate District simply took lies at face value.

I’m disappointed, but not angry, with the final result. Winning — and losing — are both important life lessons. And when all is said and done, I am proud to have run a clean campaign.

But there should be changes to the rules governing our political arena. We need to go further in leveling the playing field.

Special interest groups should not be allowed to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting a candidate for an office that pays $30,000. The ethics rules should be enforced quicker. Taxpayer-funded marketing materials should be vetted before public distribution, with citations to verify claims made by all candidates.

I am not naïve enough to think that such changes are probable, but crazier things have happened.

I do regret that I will no longer be in a position to directly further the Children’s Behavioral Health Plan that I created in 2013, champion legislation to help the intellectually disabled individuals get the support they need, fight big chemical companies to eliminate carcinogens from children’s products, or take the next step in supporting our first responders with the addition of wage replacement for PTSD.

But most of all, I will miss my constituents. It was the conversations in living rooms, church basements, grocery stores and pharmacies that most energized me.

That is where I answered my calling to public service by advocating on their behalf, solving their problems, and moving people forward an inch or a foot or a yard at a time. I did much good, but there will always be more to be done.

It has been an honor to serve you as your state senator over the past four years, and I want to thank everyone who supported me with their encouragement and insights.

As I conclude this chapter of my life, I have just a few parting requests for the citizens of the 13th Senate District:

First, don’t get your news from social media or settle for a single source; read or subscribe to more than one newspaper, in print or online.

Second, don’t automatically dismiss information from outside your comfort zone.

And finally, don’t be afraid to call or write your elected official to share an opinion, to make a suggestion, or to ask a question. Now more than ever, the health, safety and future of our beloved nation depends on informed, engaged voters.

Dante Bartolomeo is the outgoing state senator representing the 13th Senate District.


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