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The race to replace state Rep. Emil “Buddy” Altobello in the 82nd district is a three-way contest of familiar faces in Meriden and Middlefield.
Republican Michael Skelps points to his track record on Middlefield’s Board of Finance as proof he will demand accountability for state spending. Skelps has also served on the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, and is president of the local Lion’s Club.
Skelps is running against Democrat Michael Quinn of Meriden, who has served as the city’s corporation counsel for more than 12 years, is a former chairman of the Meriden Housing Authority and works as a private attorney.
Independent party candidate the Rev. Ernestine Holloway is also in the race. She ran for the seat with the Republican endorsement in 2018, losing to Altobello, who is retiring from the legislature. Skelps defeated Holloway in the GOP primary earlier this year.
The district covers the eastern part of Meriden, Middlefield and Rockfall. Quinn and Holloway, as Meriden residents, know firsthand the economic development problems the city faces. Skelps also recognizes this, but can’t ignore taxpayer frustration.
“Many have told me that at retirement, they will have to leave their home state of Connecticut to retire somewhere with better taxes, like North Carolina,” Skelps said. “In the last legislative session, a massive expansion of the state sales tax was passed, and there was even a bill proposed to increase the sales tax rate by another one-half percent. It's clear that our residents are at their breaking point and cannot tolerate yet another tax increase to feed the legislature's insatiable appetite for spending.”
Quinn sees the state’s economy as the top issue in the race. He does not support tolls.
“Connecticut's economy was starting to come around before the pandemic hit, but the pandemic made things worse again,” Quinn said. “Small businesses have been hit particularly hard, and the state needs to do everything possible to help them recover.”
"Small businesses have been hit particularly hard, and the state needs to do everything possible to help them recover.”
Quinn said federal relief money should be allocated to the small businesses that need it most — bars, restaurants, child care facilities and other small businesses that have been hit particularly hard due to closures needed to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.
“Their cooperation and sacrifice needs to be rewarded,” Quinn said.
Holloway is concerned about recent shootings in Meriden.
“Crime is a huge issue in Meriden,” Holloway said. “However, we can work to lower the crime rate. Crimes are committed for several reasons. I believe if we combine different services and work together as a team we can lower the crime rate.”
"I believe if we combine different services and work together as a team we can lower the crime rate."
Holloway also believes that more work can be done for people who need addiction services and educational skills.
“We need a place where young adults can go such as a night program similar to the Boys & Girls Club but for young adults,” Holloway said. These centers should be “staffed with counselors that are equipped to offer help in these areas and more.”
Young people need to learn conflict resolution skills along with job and training services. Holloway is also a proponent of improving public transportation to bolster employment.
“All of these things will improve the quality of life in Meriden,” Holloway said.
Quinn supports continued investment in the city’s downtown.
“Meriden's City Council, Economic Development and Planning Departments are to be commended for the steps they have taken to make Meriden more business friendly,” Quinn said. “As their representative in Hartford I will do all that I can to assist their efforts.”
"Economic aid must be allocated to provide the maximum benefit, which ensures that cities like Meriden receive their fair portion."
Skelps wants to see more federal relief money go to the city to help struggling business owners.
“Residents across the state are still reeling from the economic slowdown caused by the COVID crisis and cities like Meriden are hit especially hard,” Skelps said. “The state has received more than $1 billion in funding from the federal government, much of which is still waiting to be distributed. Economic aid must be allocated to provide the maximum benefit, which ensures that cities like Meriden receive their fair portion. Taxpayers should not be required to bear the full financial burden caused by this pandemic.”
All three candidates said they can work independently from their parties and want to be viewed on their own merits. They pledged to reach across the aisle for compromise if it benefits the district.