NORWALK, Conn. – One Norwalk candidate says you can't retire in Connecticut anymore, and that is one of the reasons he's running for the state Senate. His opponent, the incumbent, says he is proud of his accomplishments and that Connecticut's economy grew faster last year than 41 other states'.
Democratic state Sen. Bob Duff (25th District) and Republican rival Jack Chiaramonte squared off Monday night at City Hall in a candidates forum organized by the League of Women Voters of Norwalk. Moderated by Trumbull Democratic Registrar Laurel Anderson, the debate featured numerous references to the Educational Cost Sharing Formula from Chiaramonte and comments by Duff about the realities of government.
"Bob is a nice guy, he's a personable guy, but when it comes to substance, I'm sorry, you failed there," Chiaramonte said on the jobs issue.
Chiaramonte made one of his many references to being a small businessman in Sono in response to a question about the state's tax laws and recent tax hikes. "You have to entice the businesses ... they bring jobs," he said. He held up a copy of the front page of Barron's August magazine. "Worst state to do business in," he said in reference to the cover story.
Duff said the legislature was forced to make difficult choices over the past two years to balance the budget. "We worked very hard to make sure that what we did not do was we didn't push it down to municipalities," he said. "Some other states did exactly that, New Jersey for example." The result was a 20 to 30 percent jump in property taxes, he said.
"A city like Norwalk shares a lot of burden for social costs," he said. "Do we push it all back on to the municipalities? ... Or do you ask people all across the state to help provide a little more so we can get through these tough economic times?"
Chiaramonte said violent crime in the state has gone up while Duff has voted in support of early release programs.
Duff said violent crime is down about 44 percent in Connecticut over the past 30 years. Keeping people in prison is one of the most expensive things the state does, he said, adding that putting nonviolent criminals in programs to reduce recidivism is a good thing.
"It must be awfully easy to just kind of throw out facts or throw out ... what you think are facts," Duff said.
The candidates also touched on topics including the transportation infrastructure, Obamacare, education reform, the minimum wage and voter registration on Election Day.
In conclusion, Duff said the two men have very different styles, that he is proud of his accomplishments, and that "we have a lot more work to do."
Chiaramonte said he was proud of his five-year tenure as chair of the Board of Education. "I am not a polished politician, I am everyman," he said. "You see his style, you see my style."
He promised to be more pro-business. "If you're looking for a change, give me a shot," he said.