Republican incumbent state Rep. David Labriola is facing a challenge from political newcomer Democrat Scott Flaherty in the 131st District.
Labriola, 56, was first elected in 2002 and is seeking his eighth term representing the district, which covers Oxford and portions of Naugatuck and Southbury. Labriola said he wants to continue to help his constituents.
“I’ve spent my entire adult life in public service for my community. So I would like to continue that work in Hartford,” Labriola said.
When not in Hartford, Labriola works as a lawyer alongside his brother, Jerry Labriola, at the Naugatuck-based law firm Labriola and Labriola.
Flaherty, a 31-year-old bartender who lives in Oxford, said he decided to run because he has always been interested in politics.
“I just always liked politics. I think it’s interesting. I wanted to be a part of it and help the people as much as I could,” Flaherty said.
Labriola feels that the biggest issue facing the state currently is the creation and retention of small businesses.
“We need to support our small business community because they are the job creators. I will continue to advocate for a business-friendly environment,” Labriola said.
Labriola pointed to the Oxford Airport Enterprise Zone, which he helped create, as a successful example of what could be done to aid small businesses.
Flaherty said his main concern is also ensuring the state becomes more “business-friendly.” He said the state needs to work with businesses in order to lower the taxes on them and put more people to work.
“I think it is important that companies and businesses know that Connecticut can be friendly,” Flaherty said.
Labriola said he would help offset the budget deficit the state is facing by supporting well-balanced budgets that have sensible spending plans.
“I have supported budgets which do not raise taxes, that reduce spending, and reduce borrowing in a responsible way while still providing services for our most vulnerable citizens. I will continue to support those types of budgetary policies,” Labriola said.
Flaherty said supporting businesses will help to alleviate the state’s financial problems. Supporting businesses, he said, would bring more people to live and work in the state, leading to an increase in the number of people paying taxes.
Flaherty also supports the idea of placing toll booths on highways at Connecticut’s borders.
“That would help bring in revenue from anyone using roadways, not just residents,” Flaherty said.
Another major issue facing the state is opioid addiction. With hundreds of people dying from overdoses in the last year, it has been called a “crisis” by state and local officials.
Labriola said he would address this issue by offering education for residents about the issue and expand treatment opportunities for those facing addiction. He also supports punishment for those who commit serious crimes while addicted to opioids.
“We shouldn’t reduce the amount of beds available for treatment. In fact, we should increase the treatment options. So battling this crisis is a major priority of mine,” Labriola said.
Flaherty believes the best way to stop opioid use is through education.
“One of the ways to start is to teach young people throughout their schooling the dangers of drug use,” Flaherty said.
He also applauded the state’s move to limit opioid prescriptions, saying that is an important step to helping people.
Flaherty said, if elected, one his top priorities would be ensuring officials only stayed in office for a certain amount of time.
“I am a strong believer in term limits. I would fight for that,” Flaherty said.
Labriola said, if re-elected, he would continue to fight for the constituents of the 131st District.
“The heart of the work we do as state representatives is constituent service. That is work that goes on year-round. It is sometimes challenging, but always rewarding, to try and help people with their problems with state government,” Labriola said.