WALLINGFORD — Two candidates running for the state Senate seat to be vacated by Len Fasano spoke recently about where they stand on issues facing voters in the 34th District.
Fasano, the North Haven Republican who leads his party's Senate caucus, announced in April he would not be seeking a 10th term. The district includes East Haven, North Haven, Durham and Wallingford.
The race is currently between Republican Paul Cicarella Jr., vice chairman of the North Haven Republican Town Committee and a member of the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, and Democrat April Capone, a former East Haven mayor and a former manager at the state Office of Policy and Management.
Both candidates secured ballot access through party nomination, and both have qualified for funding from the state Citizens’ Election Program after raising the minimum of $16,000 from at least 300 individuals.
A third party or independent candidate has until August to petition to be on the November ballot.
Cicarella, 36, said his platform is based on “common sense solutions,” a philosophy he applies to creating jobs, growing the economy and making living in Connecticut affordable for working and middle class families.
“Too many people are leaving the state at an alarming rate,” he said, “especially young professionals. We have to definitely create good-paying jobs to keep people here in Connecticut.”
As a small business owner—he owns three investigative and security companies—he’s an advocate for affordable, though not universal, health care for all.
“Health care is a huge expense,” he said, and the cost of insuring a family can be oppressively burdensome if people don’t receive health care benefits through an employer.
“How we would go about doing that, I’d have to really analyze data that I have not had access to yet and come up with a common sense solution,” he said.
Education is also important to him as the father of two elementary school-age children, as well as ensuring seniors are able to afford to live in the state.
He said that the biggest concerns facing residents of the 34th District are getting people back to work and health care.
“Right now is the time to listen to what they have to say,” he said, “and from my time speaking with everybody, that’s definitely a concern, making it affordable to stay within the district and the state.”
Capone, 45, said she believes legislators are “the chief advocate” for their constituents and must vote in ways that ensure the resources taxpayers send to Hartford benefit their district. They also must help individuals “cut through the red tape” when dealing with state agencies.
“I have done all of those jobs in one form or another,” she said, citing her past local and state government experience and her current job at Yale New Haven Hospital’s Center for Living Organ Donors.
“Experiencing COVID as part of the heath care team — I’m not a clinician, but experiencing it as part of the team at Yale New Haven, I am very concerned about the state of health care,” she said. “I think we have learned the hard way that having your health care tied to your job is probably not the best option for many people.”
She said that she’s in favor of “affordable, reliable coverage” for everyone, but stops short of Medicare for All.
“Sometimes we need to get to where we want to go through incremental change,” she said.
She said that she and her husband are small business owners, so she would advocate for getting small business back on track and keep people employed.
“This is a working-class district,” she said. “I think the issues of pay equity, pay fairness, fair taxation resonate with the people of this district. We’ve got hard-working middle class people in this district who certainly pay their fair share into the state. Can we really say that about Connecticut’s most fortunate residents?”
Q: How do you feel about how Gov. Ned Lamont has rolled out his business reopening plan?
Cicarella: “Listening to some people in the district and different professions, (I heard) a lot of different opinions … I think that safety is first and foremost, and the health of everybody, not only the employees but the people who will be entering the establishments. But I think it needs to be the choice of both the people, and more importantly the business owners so they’re able to support their families and be able to open their doors so their employees can go to work and feed their families. With that in mind, I think the health risk needs to be mitigated in whatever way necessary.”
Capone: “I’m very fortunate that I work with people who are medical experts and I think it’s been important to listen to the experts. We are all having quarantine fatigue (but) so far the numbers show that the reopening plan is working because the rates of new infections are going down. We will have to see over time if that continues, and my hope is that if that doesn’t continue, that we would readjust and put the health of our residents first … This is the situation and I think the state put the health and safety of residents first, so I’m cautiously optimistic.”
Q: The coronavirus ripped through our nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Is there anything that could have been done differently to prevent the deaths of so many elderly people?
Capone: “I lost my aunt early on. She was in a nursing home … Maybe it’s time we look at how we care for our elderly and disabled in the state. I’m sure nursing homes could have done things differently, we know that now, but maybe there is also a different way to care for people ... As mayor, I was at the nursing homes quite a bit. I don’t know one person who’s ever wanted to go into a nursing home. Most people want to stay in their homes. Most people want community-based care.”
Cicarella: “My wife is a nurse and she works in a nursing home (in North Haven) and, knock on wood, there was no cases, and I think it was a great job on their part to make sure that the PPE equipment was utilized and there were common sense plans put in place by the business to prevent that from happening … That was a terrible, terrible thing, but as we know the virus does attack people with compromised immune systems and unfortunately some of our elderly are at a higher risk.”
Q: Where do you stand on Black Lives Matter?
Cicarella: “That was a terrible video to watch, and it was awful that that had to happen, and it didn’t have to happen. But you can’t judge every police officer for the actions of one person … I think there is a time, and it’s now, to listen and make proper changes. I do support police. I’m retired law enforcement, I was in the Department of Correction. Every organization has good and bad people, and I think the decisions need to be made taking that into consideration. Now is a time for unity.”
Capone: “When there are people in your community who are hurting, one of your roles is to listen and respond. It happened in East Haven when I was mayor, and that was one of the concerns, how do you respond to the community. I've marched with Black Lives Matter these past weeks and proud to do so. I think we need to have the tough conversations in our community … We send police out to do way too much … Police officers cannot be expected to be mental health professionals, to be social workers, to be drug counselors. We’re sending them with lethal force to do these jobs.”
Q: Where do you stand on police reform? Do you want to see changes in funding, training, equipment?
Capone: “I stand with police in making sure they are trained, they are supported, they are held accountable, which is very important, that they are given the right tools for their job and that they are not sent to do a job they shouldn’t be doing … I’ve long called for the demilitarization of our police because I don’t think that that serves us on the streets of our communities. I believe in the community policing model that has been successful.”
Cicarella: “Coming back to life experience and common sense, my mentality is, even in my business, everything can always be made better, and to do that you need to take data or information, analyze it and see where we can make things better. From a small business to policing, we can always be better. More training is definitely a great idea. I think that there needs to be more education for officers on how to deal with certain mental health issues and de-escalation of certain situations. As far as defunding, if anything I think now is more of a time to give more training to officers.”
Q: What should be addressed in the proposed special legislative session?
Cicarella: “Getting people back to work and figuring out how we’re going to get out of this situation. We definitely need to come up with a plan to get everybody back to work. Definitely the health concerns are very, very important. People are worried about a reoccurrence in the fall. I think that has to be discussed, but more importantly putting the people back to work and finding safe ways for them to do that, and how we’re going to be able to financially bounce back from the costs associated with his pandemic.”
Capone: “I think there need to be significant police reforms … The special session should address voting if that cannot be done by executive order, but I really think (it should address) police accountability and training and support. When you look at what East Haven did under the federal consent decree, it was very similar to the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The actions that they took are very, very similar. They work. So let’s make sure all of Connecticut is held to that standard.”
Q: How do you feel about voting by mail or voting by absentee ballots in the fall?
Capone: “That’s more a right-now situation than a long-term one, but I just don’t think anybody should have to risk their health to go out to vote. We have systems already in place that can help people vote safely and legally … It is our legal right to vote and I’ve spent most of my adult life doing everything I can to encourage as many people as possible to vote in every election. I know that the polling places are staffed by mostly elderly folks who come in for the day and work. I’m really concerned about that.”
Cicarella: “People who have a legitimate health concern, from my understanding, are able to vote via an absentee ballot. I think that same practice should be applied to this. If they have a compromised immune system, or a genuine fear of this virus, that they should be able to vote with an absentee ballot, but obtain the same way that they do now. If people are able to go to the supermarket, the pharmacy or Target, I think that they should be able to go and vote.”
Q: How did your kids do with distance learning and would you have made any changes to that system?
Cicarella: “(I have) a newfound respect for teachers, absolutely. Education is so important and the teachers, they work so hard to shape the future generation, and kudos to them because it is tough. My wife and I thought about possibly getting a tutor to come help out. Distance learning is tough. The teachers did as good as they can. I spoke to other parents with children that were a little bit older and they had a different type of distance learning, which I think was a little bit better because it was more structured … With the little kids, I don’t think there was enough to do to really keep their attention … but from what I understand the teachers did a very good job with the hand they were dealt.”
Capone: “(My 15-year-old stepson) just finished his freshman year and I am really fortunate because … he would get up every morning and the first thing he would do is spend two or three hours doing his school work and get it done … My concern is that not all students have that support. I’ve talked to teachers and I’ve talked to other parents. Part of the concern for working parents is that it’s very, very hard. I’ve been working through this also, I’m working from home, but with a teenager who’s pretty self-sufficient. It’s much different if you have younger children. You’re now their teacher. You’re trying to keep them engaged with school … I’m very concerned about children who have learning disabilities and how they are being served.”