NAUGATUCK — Of the four legislative seats up for grabs in the borough, only one features a race between two major party candidates, two incumbents are unopposed, and one incumbent faces challenges from minor party candidates.
“Whether I’m opposed or unopposed I take my job seriously,” said Republican Rosa Rebimbas, state representative for the 70th District, which represents a portion of Naugatuck.
Rebimbas, a Naugatuck native and an attorney with offices in the borough, was first elected to represent the 70th District in a 2009 special election. She currently is the House ranking member of the General Law Committee and is a member of Public Safety and Security Committee and the Select Committee on Children.
Rebimbas, 36, is unopposed as is her fellow state representative, Republican David Labriola, in the 131st District, which covers Oxford and portions of Naugatuck and Southbury.
“I’ve concentrated during my five terms on constituent service, helping citizens cut through the red tape of the state bureaucracy, and that will be my primary focus as a state representative during the next term,” said Labriola, a 52-year-old Naugatuck native who now lives in Oxford.
Labriola, an attorney with offices in Naugatuck, was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2002, following in the footsteps of his father, Gerald, who served as a state senator. Labriola serves on the General Assembly’s transportation, government administration and elections, and judiciary committees.
Although the pair is unopposed, that doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about their priorities for the next session.
“My top three priorities are jobs, jobs, and jobs,” Labriola said.
Labriola said he will oppose tax increases on individuals and small businesses, support spending cuts, along with continuing to support efforts to enact a business enterprise zone near the Oxford airport in order to bring jobs to the region and grow the tax base.
“It’s important to create a climate that promotes economic development and job creation,” Labriola said.
Rebimbas, who took the time to thank her constituents for their support, said her priorities are jobs, education, and taxes.
She said the state needs to look for other revenues streams beside taxes, ease the tax burden on businesses, and create a responsible plan to bring jobs back to the state.
Rebimbas added the state lacks the skilled workforce for the jobs that are available. She said the state has partnered with community colleges on a program to educate the next generation of skilled workers and must continue with the effort.
While the issues of jobs, education, and taxes appear to be different, Rebimbas said they are actually all intertwined.
Rebimbas said her message to the voters is one of common sense.
“Common sense, that’s unfortunately what our government has been lacking for many years and allowed us to get to where we are today,” she said.
She urged voters to use common sense when heading to the polls and vote for people who will bring common sense back to Hartford
“It’s going to take people who can actually deliver what they promise,” Rebimbas said.
In the 15thSenate District, which covers parts of Naugatuck, Middlebury, and Waterbury, incumbent Democrat Joan Hartley of Waterbury is facing challenges from two minor party candidates.
Andrew Larsen, a 55-year-old retired senior buyer from Waterbury, is running on the Independent ticket. Waterbury resident Blair Bertaccini, a 59-year-old wage enforcement officer for the state Department of Labor, is running on the Working Families ticket.
Both men are seeking to unseat Hartley who has been a staple in Hartford for nearly 30 years.
Hartley, who is an assistant president pro tempore in the Senate, served for 16 years as state representative for the 73rd District before being elected to the Senate in 2000.
Hartley said the upcoming session is all about the budget and jobs.
Coming off a session that featured a high tax increase to make up for a large deficit, Hartley said the budget remains strained.
“We’re at the tipping point here,” Hartley said.
Hartley said the state can’t be everything to everyone and must take a look at its programs and suspend those that aren’t working.
Historically the state tends to be one of the last to pull out of a recession, Hartley said. She said measures taken by the legislature during the last session to grow jobs are beginning to be successful as 300 new jobs were created in the last year in the greater Waterbury area.
“It’s starting and it’s slow. We just have to make sure we sustain it,” she said.
Although some new jobs have started to sprout in the area, Naugatuck and Waterbury’s unemployment rate remain high. Hartley said she would like to see economic packages prioritized for areas in the state with higher unemployment rates.
As the election draws near, Hartley encouraged voters to get to the polls. She said every vote counts and recalled her first election, which she won by two votes.
“Please be sure to vote and have everyone in your family vote,” Hartley said.
The race for the 17th Senate District seat, which represents a portion of Naugatuck along with the towns of Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Derby, Hamden, and Woodbridge, is the only one in Naugatuck that features a race between two major party candidates. Democrat Joe Crisco, of Woodbridge, is seeking his ninth term as state senator for the district. He is being challenged by Republican Tony Szewczyk, 66, of Derby.
The election is Nov. 6.