WALLINGFORD — Three of the four state legislative positions representing Wallingford remain uncontested with party conventions scheduled in the coming weeks.
Democratic incumbent Liz Linehan, who is so far running unopposed for the 103rd House District, feels it will be difficult at this point for a candidate to quality for Citizens’ Election Program campaign financing.
“It’s very late, it’s very late for people to be jumping in,” she said. “I think it’s important for people to stand up and exercise their democratic right and run for office, but it’s important for people to know the longer they wait, the more difficult the battle.”
Fellow Democratic State Representative Mary Mushinsky, who was not available for comment, is also running unopposed so far in the 85th House District.
Republican State Senator Paul Cicarella also remains unopposed in his second run for the 34th State Senate District. Alida Cella, chairperson of the Wallingford Democratic Town Committee filed to run in the district, however, she said her filing is a placeholder in case a candidate steps forward.
“The filing is for a place holder in case someone does come forward, that way they wouldn’t have to petition on,” Cella said. “We did not do something similar two years ago for the 90th, then Jim Jinks decided late in the game he wanted to challenge Fishbein. Because we did not hold a convention or have a place holder candidate he had to petition on, we could not just endorse him.”
Fishbein won that race by seven votes in 2020. The redistricting process this year led to the 90th House District being redrawn to the east, in such a way that Jinks, a Cheshire resident, no longer lives within its bounds.
The nature of a part-time legislature that works full time for a few months a year limits who can afford to run for office, Cella said.
“Part of the challenge of finding good candidates is the amount of work it takes to run, and the fact that at the end it is a part-time job, worked in a full-time manner for multiple months, that pays $30,000 a year,” Cella said. “We need a full-time legislature that pays a decent salary if we want good people to run.”
Cicarella said he’s been honored to represent Wallingford for the past two years.
“I've really been focusing on the things I talked about when I was running originally: it's public safety, making Connecticut more affordable, and getting people back to work and taking care of small businesses,” Cicarella said.
Wallingford resident Rebecca Hyland is challenging Fishbein. A former public defender in Virginia, her focus will be the juvenile justice system, which she believes should take a more proactive approach to preventing crime through interventions and community based supports.
“Based not only in research, but also in my own experience, I know what works and what doesn’t and the current push, actually led by my opponent, to increase incarceration and punish more heavily … isn’t going to work,” Hyland said. “It’s a reactive approach that reacts primarily after crime has already occurred and it’s not actually going to solve any of the problems.”
Improving access to health care is another central part of Hyland’s platform. As a type one diabetic, she would push for a price cap for prescription drugs such as insulin. Expanding access to public transportation, universal pre-k and improving vocational training are also important to her.
A Northford native, Hyland graduated from George Washington Law School in Washington, D.C. She moved to Wallingford in 2016 and taught at Sacred Heart Academy for five years until the start of the pandemic.
Fishbein, who did not return calls for comment on this article, has been a state representative since 2016 and has served on the Wallingford Town Council since 2010.
Linehan said that she’s running on a proven track record of improving the state’s finances while providing relief to families throughout the pandemic. She also pointed to the passage of legislation she helped author to expand mental health care for children.
“The historic amount of money in the rainy day fund, the fact that we are going to end the year with an unprecedented surplus … just goes to show that years of Democratic leadership through this pandemic has been successful,” she said.
Reporter Devin Leith-Yessian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.