SOUTHINGTON — A Republican pastor from Southington and a Democratic Town Councilor from Berlin are vying for the open 30th state House seat.
JoAnn Angelico-Stetson is a two-term Berlin councilor, Democratic state central committee member and a paralegal in Hartford. Jim Townsley is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Southington and founder of Central Baptist Academy and New England Baptist College.
Both have filed paperwork with the State Elections Enforcement Commission to run for the 30th House District seat.
House speaker Joe Aresimowicz, a Democrat, has held the seat for 14 years. He decided not to run for re-election.
The district includes part of Southington and all of Berlin. In 2018, the Southington portion of the district voted for Michael Gagliardi, a Republican challenger who’d entered the race three weeks before the election. In a recount, Aresimowicz won by just 50 votes.
The 2018 results encouraged Republicans, who held the 30th district seat for 20 years under Ann Dandrow.
Angelico-Stetson said she’ll be working hard in both towns to gather support. Republicans have majorities on the Berlin and Southington town councils.
“Both towns are red,” she said. “That’s a huge challenge.”
Aresimowicz endorsed Angelico-Stetson, describing her as experienced and a “fighter” for the district in Hartford.
Townsley said while this is his first run for public office, he’s worked on campaigns for other Republican legislators such state Sen. Robert Sampson and former state senator Joe Markley.
The Republican convention has yet to meet and choose Townsley as its candidate. He’s not aware of anyone else looking to run for the two-town district.
Economics and pandemic
Townsley said he was prompted to run by seeing young people and families leave the state for North Carolina, Texas or Virginia.
“We lose three to five families a year from Central Baptist Church,” he said. “Nine out of 10 of our young people don’t stay, don’t remain in our state.”
People are leaving for “places that don’t have a state income tax, places where property taxes are much lower.”
Angelico-Stetson said she hopes to help people as a legislator and said the pandemic has brought to light a host of needs. She’s hoping to bring stability to people’s lives, jobs and access to healthcare.
“Whether it’s mental health, physical well being, especially during this time right now. They’re scary times,” she said. “I try very much to make choices out of compassion and not out of conflict. That’s what I hope this campaign is about.”
Campaigning during COVID
Both candidates said it will be a different type of campaign, without the usual door-knocking and other in-person tactics.
Angelico-Stetson said she’ll be relying on social media and the web to get her message out to voters. She’s hoping for a positive campaign and said she knew little about her opponent other than he was a pastor. She said she’s not religious in a traditional sense but believes religion should respect “that women have reproductive rights over their bodies, that people should be able to marry and love anybody they want. Love makes a family, not gender and traditional roles.”
Townsley said he also didn’t know his opponent but looked forward to discussing the issues with her.
“I hope that’s what the campaign is about,” he said. “Let people decide, what kind of person they want up in Hartford.”
He said networking will be important to his campaign.