Candidates square off in Plainville, Southington, Farmington House district

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The race in the newly redrawn 22nd House district features Plainville Democratic Town Chairwoman and Board of Education member Rebecca Martinez versus Republican nominee and longtime educator Francis Rexford Cooley, also of Plainville.

The district now includes parts of Southington and Farmington, in addition to Plainville, while no longer including part of New Britain.

Martinez and Cooley are running to replace current representative Dr. William Petit, a two-term Republican who opted not to seek re-election. 

Cooley lived in Southington for 15 years and Plainville for the last 12. He was elected as a member of Plainville’s Library Board of Trustees in 2019, and served on the Board of Directors at the American Clock and Watch Museum in Bristol from 2019 to 2022. 

“I have roots in all parts of the 22nd District,” he said.

Martinez has lived in the Plainville area since 2009. She has worked as a nurse for 22 years and serves as a member of the State Board of Examiners of Nursing. She was elected to the Plainville Board of Education in 2019, and chairs the Democratic Town Committee.

Martinez first became involved in politics when taking a lead role in the Wheeler School Renovation Committee, but says it was the pandemic that inspired her to run as a Democratic candidate for state representative.

“As a homecare nurse, I’m in my patients’ homes everyday and see how they struggle to make ends meet. My patients struggle to pay for prescriptions and to get access to healthcare providers. As a Plainville BOE member and parent of two children in public schools, I also see the challenges facing our children,” she said, “When I see something that needs to be changed, I take action to make it happen and that’s what motivated me to run.”

Cooley said he was asked to run for the position by Republican colleagues and has based his platform on three central issues — crime, education, and taxes.

“The high taxes and cost of doing business in the state are driving businesses and people to leave. Test scores are dropping showing the failures in our educational system. The same criminals are being released again and again to commit more crime,” Cooley said. “All three are impacting the quality of life in Connecticut for all our residents.”

These issues frame what Cooley calls his “commonsense” platform. 

The core of Martinez’s campaign is focused on economic opportunity and education. Informed by her experience as a nurse, affordable healthcare is also a core issue she seeks to address for residents of the district.

“I believe that living a good life should not be as challenging as it is today,” Martinez said. “My platform focuses on the bread and butter issues to ensure those who live in the 22nd district can have a good life.”

As a nurse, she aims to use her experience to push for more affordable and accessible health care for Connecticut residents, as well as making medical professionals a greater part of legislative decisions in Hartford. She also looks to pass legislation to better fight the opioid crisis and provide proper mental health services to those in need.

Economy, education

The state’s economy is also one of the more pressing issues for both candidates. Cooley hopes to bring business back to the state by lowering taxes and reducing overall state spending. He points to the departure of companies like General Electric, Carrier Corporation, and United Technologies Corporation as a reason to reduce taxes to make the state more attractive to both large corporations and small businesses. 

Martinez approaches the economic issue in a way she said will benefit both residents, and the education system. With her experience on the school board in Plainville, Martinez aims to ensure that the district gets the money it needs for its schools at the state level — to ease the cost to residents at the local level through property taxes. 

“I have worked on the budget line by line and understand the needs of our district,” Martinez said. “I’m committed to fighting to ensure our district gets its fair share of state funding so we can keep our property taxes in check.”

Education is also a major factor in Cooley’s campaign, as he seeks to prioritize essential skills in schools which he says will meaningfully prepare children for careers after they graduate.  

Cooley has had an extensive career in education prior to his foray into politics, having taught history at Paier College of Art for 23 years and serving as the college’s dean for 13 of those years. He’s also written articles for scholarly publications over the years, primarily around the topic of American foreign policy. 

Endorsements, experience

Both candidates have a number of endorsements. 

Cooley has endorsements from the National Federation of Independent Business, the Connecticut Association of Realtors, and the Connecticut State Fraternal Order of Police.  

Martinez is endorsed by the Independent Party, the Working Families Party, Planned Parenthood, Connecticut Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The Independent and Working Families party endorsements mean that Martinez appears on the ballot on three separate lines.

Martinez is also an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and the importance of women’s bodily autonomy. 

Both candidates are confident they have the experience necessary to be the next representative of the 22nd district.

Cooley cites his prior experience working as an educator, and serving on several boards.

“I will bring all the experiences I have had in my life to serve as a representative in the General Assembly,” he said. “I’m ready to do the job.”

Martinez said her time on the Plainville BOE and as a local community advocate will convince voters that she’s dedicated to representing their interests. 

“I love my community and have been very involved on boards, commissions and as a volunteer,” she said. “I’m ready to bring your voices to Hartford and advocate for all of the 22nd district.”


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