SOUTHINGTON – Republican state Rep. John Fusco is working to convince voters to give him a third term in the General Assembly while Democratic challenger Dagmara Scalise is arguing the district needs new representation.
Fusco said with two terms under his belt, he’s now better able to introduce legislation and serve the district.
Three bills that he supported were heading for a vote before the pandemic shut down the legislature, according to Fusco. He suggested crisis task forces comprised of police, social workers and others. He also wanted to make it easier for the deaf and hard of hearing to obtain types of commercial driver’s licenses and proposed a bill on missing veterans.
Fusco said not everyone can affect change at the capital.
“There have been people up there for years trying to get a bill across,” he said.
Scalise said Fusco’s views don’t represent all of the district, which is entirely in Southington. She’s looking to bring a fresh perspective and work in a bipartisan manner.
“I feel like John Fusco is really voting with a slate of Republican legislators and I don’t necessarily see a reflection of the diversity of our community where he’s really representing the views of all people.” she said. “It’s a much more extreme position.”
“I’m really somebody who’s trying to bridge the divide between us,” Scalise said.
Two years ago, Democrats endorsed Scalise to run for the 16th state Senate seat against Republican Rob Sampson. Scalise was defeated in a primary by Vickie Nardello, who lost to Sampson in the general election.
Scalise served almost a full term on the Southington Planning and Zoning Commission, but left to focus on a state run.
Fusco criticized the recent special session where the legislature passed sweeping changes intended to improve policing. He voted against the bill. While he supported portions, such as crisis intervention teams similar to those he proposed, the bill had too many problems and was written too quickly.
“Getting it wrong isn’t serving the community. I think everybody lost in that,” he said.
Scalise didn’t want to speculate on how she might have voted on the bill. She said she’d enter the General Assembly without preconceived notions on which bills to support.
“As a candidate, you don’t have all the facts before you. I’m truly in listening and learning mode,” she said. “I really want to better understand what the views are.”
Fusco said he’ll take constituent opinion and conservative principles into account when he considers legislation.
“One of the things I ask is, ‘Is this the role of government?’” Fusco said. “Does it protect people’s freedoms? Is it an overreach of government?”
Most of Southington’s legislative delegation is Republican and the town supported President Donald Trump in the 2016 election.
“I think Southington has been growing decidedly conservative over the years,” Fusco said. “My district expects me to be there and provide balance to state government” where Democrats have long held a majority.
Scalise said Fusco’s opposition to the majority hurts Southington. She’d be able to better work with state leadership.
“If you’re always voting no, how can you possibly get a seat at the table where decisions are being made?” she said.