Dathan, Mastronardi Tackle 8-30g, Early Voting, Women’s Reproductive Rights During LWV Candidates Debate


State Representative Lucy Dathan (D-142) defended her seat against challenger Don Mastronardi (R) during the League of Women Voters New Canaan Candidate Debate held Oct. 20 at Town Hall.

The debate, which was moderated by students from New Canaan High School, was one of five held during the evening, including two for races for the State Senate and three for the State House.

The 142nd House District includes New Canaan and Norwalk.

“Local elections are so important and truly affect our daily lives,” said Dathan, who was elected to the post in 2018, in her opening remarks. “I am proud to represent Norwalk and New Canaan for almost four years as vice chair of the [House] Appropriations Committee.”

“I pride myself in strategic long term thinking,” said Dathan, a New Canaan resident who previously worked for over 25 years as a finance executive, a CPA, and a CFO. “Connecticut has made great strides in the past several years paying down $5 billion in pension liabilities, saving $440 million a year in debt servicing, refilling our rainy day fund to record $3.3 billion, and improving bond ratings. We still have a number of challenges ahead and require experience and a steady hand to manage.”

Mastronardi, a local businessman, likened Dathan’s claim that the Democrats helped get the state’s fiscal matters in order to “an arsonist starting a fire to a house and then throwing water on it and taking credit for it.”

“For 40 years, one party has ruled this state,” said Mastronardi, also a New Canaan resident. ”We need change. I am a fiscal conservative who believes in limited government. And you’re going to hear a lot about the abortion issue tonight. I am a pro-choice, limited government, fiscal conservative. I am not going to be involved with the scare tactics and fear mongering. I am going to talk about the issues that are important to the state.”

On the topic of the state’s controversial 8-30g affordable housing statute, Dathan said she agrees that it is best for towns to have local control over their zoning matters, and said she would like to see the law modified.

“We need affordable housing – especially for young people and our seniors to be able to stay in our communities,” Dathan said. “Not only is it good for our towns – it is good for our local economy.”

“8-30g should be reformed,” she said. “And I think the state should be thinking about how it can support towns in getting these moratoriums – versus the other way around.”

“No one wants a predator builder coming to their community,” Dathan added. “I have concerns about the Weed Street and Hill Street developments due to their lack of green space. And I have stood strong against my party in the past on zoning issues. I voted no on HB 6107 – a one-size-fits-all for all of our towns. I was really concerned that this would not help communities really achieve the moratorium thresholds in a meaningful way.”

Mastronardi said he wants to see 8-30g repealed.

“8-30g is an awful law – and we should repeal it immediately,” he said, adding that keeping the law in place, even if its modified, would mean that Hartford would continue to dictate what towns can and cannot do.

“I believe that we need to make sure we have local control – and take on builders like [Arnold] Karp, who want to run through affordable housing on the backs of the people who live in this town,” Mastronardi said.

“As somebody who lived in Norwalk before moving to New Canaan, I can tell you what over-building has done to Norwalk; what it has done to our schools; what it has done to our infrastructure; what it has done to the sewage that is being dumped into the Sound right now,” Mastronardi said. “We have some serious things we need to address – and affordable housing is one of them – but having a top-down approach from Hartford is not the way to go. I’m glad to hear that Lucy is opposed to this bill. The problem is, her party is for this bill. They believe in ramming these things through – and I disagree with that kind of approach. I think people are better making decisions on the local level.”

In her rebuttal, Dathan said she was “a little bit concerned when someone says they want to repeal a law without something to replace it with.”

“We need to figure out how we are going to address affordable housing,” she said. “I go to doors where 25 year olds, 30 year olds, are still living with their parents because they can’t find anything affordable in this area.”

Mastronardi rebutted that the solution to that problem of 30-year-olds living at home is “simple.”

“You make Connecticut more affordable by cutting taxes,” he said. “You do it by keeping government efficient and small. Your party hasn’t done that. Your party has a big government mentality that’s made Connecticut the second most taxed state in the country. That’s why people cant afford to live here – and that’s why kids are living with their parents when they’re 30.”

On the topic of rising energy costs, Dathan said she wants the electric grid updated to make it more efficient and more renewable energy sources added, including solar and wind.

“We all know energy prices are out of control – we see that with our monthly electric bills,” she said. “We are where we are due to Gov. Rowland deregulating the energy market, which didn’t help our residential customers.”

“We have four key areas that we need to think about: Affordability, reliability, sustainability and accountability,” Dathan said. “[In 2020 the legislature passed] the Take Back Our Grid Act – and that helped – but there’s still more that needs to be done. We want to make sure we use some of the $5.4 billion of federal infrastructure money that is coming to our state and invest it in our utility infrastructure.

“But we also need to consider diversifying our energy resources – investing in renewables including solar and wind farms, that have become more completive price-wise than fossil fuels,” she added. “And I agree that we need to be thinking about nuclear energy. We have Millstone Nuclear Power Plant – which provides a large portion of our energy currently – but we really need to be thinking longer term, and stop kicking the can further down the road.”

Mastronardi took exception to Dathan blaming a past Republican governor for the state’s high energy costs, “when her party has run the state for [the past] 40 years.”

He said the reason why electric rates are so high is because nearly 20% of an average electric bill is fees tacked on by the state.

“We have some of the highest electricity rates in the country – and that’s because of your party,” Mastronardi said.

Both candidates agreed that woman’s reproductive rights need to be protected. Dathan, however, tried to cast doubt on whether those rights would remain intact in the future should the state come under Republican majority leadership.

“Since the overturning of Roe v Wade, I have been very proud to be living here in Connecticut, where we support a woman’s right to choose,” Dathan said. “I’m a fighter – and I am going to continue to fight for this right – because it is very important.”

“Even though the law has been codified into statute, it has not been codified in the [state] constitution – and one of my jobs as a legislator is to change the laws,” Dathan said. “So, [the recently passed Reproductive Freedom Defense Act] could potentially be changed, until it is codified into the constitution.”

Dathan said since 2014 state Republicans have made more than 30 attempts to “chip away” and the state’s abortion laws.

“So, what is next? Do we have issues with LGBTQ rights and marriage equality? What about Griswold and our legal rights to contraception? Even the ACA could be challenged if we go down that road.”

Mastronardi said he is pro-choice and has no intention of changing the state’s abortion laws.

“As a male, and as a pro-choice Republican, I don’t think its my right to tell a woman what she can and can’t do with her body,” he said. “And that goes across everything, I didn’t feel comfortable with people mandating vaccines and I didn’t feel comfortable with people mandating masks, and I definitely don’t feel comfortable telling a woman what to do with her body – especially when she has to make a difficult choice.”

Both candidates also expressed support for early voting in Connecticut – but had different ideas for how it should work.

“We are one of four states that don’t allow early voting,” Dathan said. “We need to offer more choices for people to exercise their [right to vote]. We need to ensure that Connecticut citizens have more than just the one day, between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., to cast their ballots. Not only will this [2022] ballot measure make voting more accessible to every eligible voter, it will also decrease lines on Election Day, it will ensure accuracy for tallying, and moreover, it will increase security in Election Day results. I was disheartened to see that some of my more radical [colleagues] in the General Assembly did not vote on this. We had many Republicans who did support it – which was heartening – but I felt that there should have been more.”

Mastronardi said while he would generally support an early voting proposal, if proposed, “I would have to see the details of it.”

“But I am always up for more democracy and not less,” here said. “I think we should have open primaries – and I think we should support a third party; I think it will help take some of the extremes out of what we are seeing in our politics today. I am endorsed by the Independent party – and I am proud of that – obviously I am the Republican nominee.

Mastronardi said he wouldn’t support an early voting proposal if it allows people to vote “three weeks, four weeks out” from an election.

“I don’t agree with that, for a couple of reasons,” he said. “One, we are having our debates a couple weeks before the election – and for someone to make a decision before they’ve heard the candidates – or before we’ve had a chance to lay out our plans – I don’t think is right or fair.”

“I would be more in favor of ballot measures of term limits – I think that actually would get more people to come out and vote early,” he said. “Because they’ve done studies that show that early voting doesn’t increase turnout. I think if we are going to do early voting it should be [limited to] the weekend before the election.”

When asked a question related to the balancing of revenues with spending, Mastronardi said making the state more attractive to businesses is the best approach to increasing revenues.

“As a business owner, I can tell you that a lot of the taxes come from people such as myself,” said Mastronardi, who owns the Dry Dock Cafe in Norwalk. “Whether it is payroll taxes, property taxes, income taxes – those people pay into the system. How do we make the system more affordable for people? We need to be nimble – but we need revenues. That should come from making Connecticut more open to business development. Our state is lagging behind the rest of the country when it comes to business development and job growth. We continue to spend money that we don’t have and we continue to slam taxes on businesses. We put taxes on our meals. We put taxes on our cars. The problem is that our government is too big.”

Dathan said the state “has done quite a bit in order to streamline our government.”

“As vice chair of the Appropriations Committee, it is my responsibility to go through the budget on a line by line basis, going agency by agency, seeing where their head counts are, and where they are spending their money,” she said, adding that the state has also been seeing a lot of retirements this year.

She said this ‘silver tsunami’ has decreased staffing by as much 20% since 2005.

“And we have a large number of people who are now eligible for retirement – so, there is a large brain drain going out of the state government.”

The debate was broadcast only – the public was not invited to attend in-person.

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