By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer
BEACON FALLS — A pair of Seymour politicians will face off in the race to represent the 105th House District.
Republican state Rep. Nicole Klarides-Ditria, 51, of Seymour, is seeking her third term representing the district, which includes Beacon Falls, Seymour and part of Derby. To secure another term in office, she will have to fend off a challenge from Democrat Christopher Bowen, who is a selectman in Seymour, in the Nov. 3 election.
Klarides-Ditria said her parents and older sister, House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, are the reasons why she became involved in politics and why she’s running for reelection.
“They always wanted us to stay involved in the community,” said Klarides-Ditria about her parents. “They taught us to always help people and try to enact good change in the lives of people and make a difference, and that’s what mattered to us.”
Bowen, 40, who is in his first term on the Seymour Board of Selectmen, said he is running for the state House because he feels there needs to be more focus on the lower Naugatuck Valley.
“We’ve got an economy that’s based in the ’60s when we had vibrant factories and vibrant manufacturing. Now those factories largely went away but nothing has really changed. As a result, younger skilled people are leaving the Valley and the ones that stay are commuting to other areas, myself included,” said Bowen, who is a cellular engineer at Ventus Global Network Solutions in Norwalk.
Klarides-Ditria, who is married and has a son, served on the Seymour Board of Selectmen for five years before being elected to the House of Representatives. She is an athletic trainer for Lauralton Hall High School in Milford, and received a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management from Quinnipiac University.
Bowen, who is married, graduated from Porter and Chester Institute with a computer repair certificate. He served as vice chairman of Seymour’s Economic Development Commission and an alternate member on the Planning and Zoning Commission before being elected selectman in 2019.
When it comes to their priorities for the state and district, both candidates said strengthening the economy tops the list.
Klarides-Ditria said the state needs property tax reform to help municipalities and taxpayers, and has to streamline the process of doing business in Connecticut.
“We have a lot of unfunded mandates for our municipalities, for our town and cities,” Klarides-Ditria said. “If we can work with our municipal leaders and find ways to help them save, that would be one option.”
Bowen views brownfield remediation and nuclear energy as ways to spark the economy in the Valley. He said he wants to use brownfield grant funds to clean up contaminated former factory sites to help redevelop the land.
“If we can remediate that soil, that land can be sold,” he said.
Bowen said a nuclear plant could power the entire Naugatuck Valley while attracting skilled labor jobs and raising the average income.
Klarides-Ditria said securing funding to build a new Valley Fire Chiefs Regional Fire School in Beacon Falls and fighting to prevent forced school regionalization are also among her top goals.
The former Valley fire school closed in 2000 after the property in Derby was declared a brownfield. In 2010, the state bought 11 acres on Lancaster Drive in Beacon Falls to build a new training school. Although work has been done to prepare for construction, funding to build the school has yet to be approved by the State Bond Commission. Governors set the commission’s agenda.
Klarides-Ditria said Gov. Ned Lamont needs to keep a campaign promise to fund the fire school.
“We need to give our firefighters the proper support to be able to train and then keep us safe,” Klarides-Ditria said. “I always support public safety, and this is one of the big things I support.”
Democrats proposed legislation in 2019 aimed at consolidating smaller school districts.
Klarides-Ditria said school regionalization should happen naturally and be the choice of municipal leaders.
“Don’t force it,” Klarides-Ditria said. “Let the towns decide on their own if it would work for them to regionalize.”
Bowen said he wants to work to make the 105th District a technology hub by offering tax incentives and payroll exceptions to attract tech companies.
“Once you get those jobs in here, you spread out the tax burden among the voter base, you increase the grand list and income density goes up,” Bowen said. “From that point, we’re not chasing people, they’re coming to us. That’s what I’m aiming to do is make it less burdensome to do business in the Valley, especially for newer technology.”
Bowen also wants to the state to become less dependent on fossil fuels.
“I want to transition off of fossil fuels. Net zero carbon is a nice goal, but I want to transition off of fossil fuels and gradually shift to nuclear,” Bowen said. “That also supports us economically because it gives us better options than UI or Eversource.”
Bowen asked voters to consider him on his merits.
“I want to get past the messy partisanship that we see in the state. … I don’t want to people to judge me as a Democrat and I don’t want people to judge my opponent as a Republican,” Bowen said. “I want them to judge us on our ideals.”
If reelected, Klarides-Ditria said she will continue fighting every day for people throughout the state.
“I will continue to fight for my constituents in my district and the state of Connecticut. I love this state,” Klarides-Ditria said. “I think it’s a wonderful place to live, but I want to continue to move Connecticut forward. Keep people in Connecticut.”