A political newcomer and an experienced politician are vying to be the Democratic candidate in the 16th Senatorial District come November.
Dagmara Scalise received the Democratic endorsement to run in the district, which includes Southington, Wolcott and Prospect, and parts of Cheshire and Waterbury. To earn the spot on the ballot, Scalise will have to beat fellow Democrat Vickie Nardello in the Aug. 14 primary.
Scalise, 51, of Southington, is the system director of marketing at Bristol Hospital. Scalise, who is married with three children, has never held a public office and this is her first political campaign.
“Legislators that have been in office for multiple years have not been able to affect change. They are not the wave of the future,” Scalise said. “I am someone who is coming in with a fresh perspective. I think that is what people are ready for.”
Scalise feels one of the biggest issues facing the state is the negativity in the current political climate.
“I feel our state is under assault from negative politics. There is an assault on progressive values in our state,” Scalise said.
Scalise said she’s also concerned that there isn’t a vision for the future of the state.
“I hear a lot about the need to fix our finances but not a solution,” Scalise said.
Scalise said the solution lies in growing revenue and creating a vision of what the state should be in years to come.
Scalise said she supports equal pay for women, fair wages, paid family leave, and ensuring the middle class feels it has the ability to live in the state and not just pay taxes.
Nardello, 67, of Prospect, is no stranger to politics.
Nardello, a retired public health dental hygienist for the Hartford school system who teaches health care policy at University of Bridgeport as an adjunct, served as state representative in the 89th District for 18 years before losing the seat to state Rep. Lezlye Zupkus in 2012.
Nardello, who has a daughter, said the biggest challenge facing the state right now is improving the economy.
Nardello said the legislature can start to help set the economy right by attracting businesses to the state, keeping young people in Connecticut, and improving transportation and infrastructure.
Nardello said the state must have a consistent regulation process in place so businesses know what to expect year to year and improve the educational system.
“If we are going to improve our economy we need to make sure we have an education system that really is tailored to working with businesses and that meets the job needs in state,” Nardello said.
Nardello said she would also fight to ensure people with preexisting medical conditions are able to retain their insurance, even if the federal government moves forward with its plan to end that inclusion under the Affordable Care Act.
Nardello said she would be the best candidate to face Republican Rob Sampson in November because the race would give voters two clear choices. She pointed to her belief in regulations for gun ownership and strong support of pay equity for women as two points where her and Sampson differ.
“I’m the best caudate to face Rob Sampson because there is a direct contrast between Rob Sampson and I. We feel very differently about the issues, and the voters will get a very clear choice in November,” Nardello said.
For both Democratic candidates, their experience in public office is where they feel they have an edge in the primary.
Scalise said she became interested in politics after President Donald Trump won in 2016.
“I think I am representative of the new wave of citizens that are stepping forward in the wake of this political climate,” Scalise said. “I didn’t feel the people in the district were representing my perspective so I stepped up to be that person.”
Scalise says her lack of experience means she has no record that could be held against her and allows her to work with everyone in the state Senate.
“I am a completely clean slate,” Scalise said. “I think having people like myself who are not coming in with baggage and a willingness to collaborate is important.”
Nardello said her experience in the state House of Representatives and her nearly lifelong residency in the district makes her the best candidate.
“I have deep roots in district. I understand the needs of the people living here,” Nardello said.
Nardello said her political experience means that she won’t need much time to get up to speed and she has the power to stand up for what she believes is right.
“I can hit the ground running on the first day,” Nardello said. “I will be able to stand up for working families and against powerful interests.”
Sampson, 48, of Wolcott, received the Republican nomination from all five municipalities that make up the district.
“It is a tremendous honor to be chosen to represent my party in the race for state Senate and to receive unanimous support,” Sampson said.
Sampson is the state representative for the 80th House District, a position he has held since the 2010 election. He is also a realtor and insurance agent.
Sampson said he first looked into running for the Senate on the suggestion of Joe Markley, the Republican incumbent in the 16th District. Markley is giving up the seat to run for lieutenant governor.
“Joe and I do a lot of things together. We have worked hand in hand to thwart the dangerous policies of Gov. [Dannel] Malloy,” Sampson said.
Steve Theriault, a petitioning candidate, is collecting signatures in order to petition his way onto the ballot in November to run in the district.