MERIDEN — Two Republicans are vying for a chance to run in November for the 82nd House District seat held for 26 years by retiring Democrat Emil “Buddy” Altobello.
Middlefield resident Michael Skelps, seeking his first state office, earned the Republican endorsement earlier this year by receiving the majority of delegate votes at the party’s nominating convention. He is being challenged by the Rev. Ernestine Holloway, who received the necessary 89 signatures from registered Republicans in the 82nd District to qualify for a primary. The 82nd District covers a portion of Meriden and Middlefield.
Holloway previously ran for the seat in 2018 as the endorsed Republican candidate, losing to Altobello by 1,702 votes. Democrats have nominated Michael Quinn, currently Meriden’s corporation counsel, to fill the seat.
Skelps, a U.S. Navy veteran, has lived in Middlefield for 15 years and owns a small business. He has served on the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals and Board of Finance.
“With Buddy stepping down, I just thought it was a good opportunity for me to throw my hat in the ring,” Skelps said. “I saw the other potential competitors and I said, ‘Well, I think I could do a good job and probably a better job than my opponents would.’”
Skelps said his platform is focused on ending what he called a “blank check” mentality in state government. He described himself as a moderate Republican who sees value in maintaining certain regulations and social services.
“I’m not a slash-and-burn guy, but I want to be smart about this,” he said.
This is the latest in a series of runs for local and state office by Holloway in recent years. In addition to her 2018 run for the 82nd House District, she also unsuccessfully ran to become mayor of Meriden in 2017 and ran for mayor again in 2019 while simultaneously running for a seat on Meriden’s City Council.
She feels her past experience in running for the General Assembly is an advantage.
“People already know where I stand. I’m pro-life, I’m pro (the Second Amendment). People already know,” Holloway said.
In talking about her platform, Holloway rattled off a wide range of positions and beliefs, including fighting the increased delivery fees charged to Eversource Energy customers, being “anti-vax for schools,” and giving parents more school choice. She also opposes tolls, regionalization, and a recent movement calling for municipalities to “defund police” to combat police brutality.
“I believe we should fix the problem, not defund it,” she said.
The primary will be held Aug. 11, and voters will have the choice to vote in person or by absentee ballot. Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order earlier this year allowing all registered voters to vote by absentee ballot for the August primary. Voters can mail their absentee ballot, or drop it off at one of two secure drop-off boxes at the Norwood Street and Liberty Street entrances of City Hall, located at 142 E. Main St.
Recent confusion between the Secretary of the State’s Office and municipal clerks across Connecticut has delayed the mailing of 20,000 absentee ballots to voters across the state, including 464 ballots in Meriden.
Municipal clerks were under the impression that the state would handle mailing out all absentee ballots before the Aug. 11 primary. But Secretary of the State Denise Merrill's office said this week that the plan was always to have town clerks take over the mailing responsibilities as the primary drew closer.
In an email Wednesday, City Clerk Denise Grandy said her office has mailed out 459 replacement ballots to voters since Monday.
“We have been backtracking, matching the State’s list of ballots sent out to the applications we have on file,” she wrote.
The short timeline doesn’t give voters much time to return their ballots.
“My biggest worry is my office has till noon on (Aug. 10) to enter all returned ballots, after that we will have to call the polls to cross the names off their voter lists. And to add to the problem the Post Office is closed due to no power,” Grandy, a Republican, wrote in the email. “It will take a miracle to pull this election off. If the State would have left it in the City/Town Clerks hands we would have no worries.”