MERIDEN — Democrat Cathy Abercrombie has held the 83rd District seat in the state House of Representatives for nearly eight full terms.
This November’s contest is a rematch against Abercrombie’s 2018 opponent, Republican Lou Arata.
Two years ago Abercrombie’s margin of victory was 315 votes: 4,765 to Arata’s 4,450 as the Republican and Independent party endorsed candidate. Libertarian Party candidate Roger P. Misbach finished a distant third in that race, with 117 votes. The district represents portions of Meriden and Berlin.
Abercrombie’s margin of victory in 2016, against Joseph Vollano, was just 168 votes: 5,273 to 5,105.
With voting through absentee ballots already underway, Abercrombie, a city resident, touted her experience representing the district.
“I think that experience matters,” she said. “I think that I have a proven track record where I represent my constituents and their needs.”
Arata, a Meriden resident who currently serves as vice chairman of the city’s Public Utilities Commission, is running a campaign centered on fiscal conservatism.
“As a fiscal conservative, I believe that smaller government and free markets are the surest ways to a robust and healthy economy,” Arata said in a statement on his campaign’s website. “People are the best stewards of the wealth they have earned by virtue of their hard work, and they should be able to make the best decisions of how and what their money should be spent on. Almost all agree that no one will take better care of your money as you will.”
Abercrombie said helping the state recover from the economic challenges of the pandemic is her top priority heading into the next legislative session. The challenges include unemployment and rebuilding small businesses.
“Coming into January, there are going to be a lot of issues to look at,” Abercrombie said. “I think the number one issue is going to be where we are with COVID…. We’re still going to be in the thick of things. I think our priority needs to be unemployment. How many people, are they getting the dollars that they need so they can survive?”
Other priorities include food insecurity, the impact of the pandemic on nursing homes, education funding and technology access for students in Meriden, she said.
Arata said he felt compelled to challenge Abercrombie again.
“With the tax and spend mentality of the controlling Democratic Party for the last 29 years, I felt it was my duty to run again since the 2018 results were so close,” Arata wrote in a message to the Record-Journal. “Yes I believe the residents of Connecticut are ready for a new outlook in their legislators — one of common sense and a tighter belt on state spending. The district is absolutely ready for that.”
Arata described the 2018 campaign as “an interesting election cycle.”
“My main focus was to be an agent of positive change, helping the State to get back into fiscal responsibility,” he wrote. “The electorate wasn’t fully on board. The continued lack of fiscal leadership and independent thinking has left us all worse off.”
He added, “I love my State and I would like to retire here.”
Abercrombie currently chairs the Human Services Committee in the House, and serves as a member of the Appropriations Committee, chairing its Human Services subcommittee.
Abercrombie described her work on the committees as areas that differentiate her from her opponent.
“I have done a lot of work on behalf of our seniors, making sure that Meals on Wheels stays intact, making sure the home care programs that we offer give them the ability to stay as long as they want so they don’t have to go into long-term care,” Abercrombie said. Other work includes addressing the needs of students with intellectual disabilities and the needs of students on the autism spectrum.
“I think that the human services piece of it is where my greatest strength is,” she said. “I also know the budget inside and out. I know what any cuts mean and how they affect the people that we represent. So I think that I have a better understanding of the finances of the state than my opponent does.”
The candidates are scheduled to participate in a live forum Tuesday at 7 p.m. on the Record-Journal’s Facebook page. If you have a question you’d like us to ask them please share it with us at Myrecordjournal.com/Voices or by filling out the form below. To learn more about the candidates and where they stand on the issues visit our voter guide at Myrecordjournal.com/Elections.