NAUGATUCK — For the second straight election cycle, Deputy Mayor Tamath K. Rossi will seek the 17th District Senate seat, and this time she won’t have to throw together a campaign at the last minute.
Rossi, a 43-year-old Republican, entered the race last Friday, nine months before Election Day. In 2008, she replaced the original GOP candidate, Leo Moscato of Derby, in late August, leaving only about nine weeks. Rossi went on to lose to incumbent Democrat Joseph Crisco, 24,767-13,541.
Since the defeat, Rossi has worked to increase her profile outside the borough.
“I never left the 17th District,” she said Monday. “After losing, I stayed active and continued to forge relationships with the people I met during the campaign. … It will be easier [to campaign this year] because of that activity and involvement. It’s been a work in progress.”
Rossi’s extra-Naugatuck efforts continued the day after her announcement; she held three open houses Saturday afternoon and evening, the first at her borough home and the second and third in Ansonia and Hamden, respectively.
Rossi won her hometown, 4,107-3,368, in 2008 but lost the district’s six other towns, Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Derby, Hamden and Woodbridge, Crisco’s hometown. The ninth-term senator has made no announcement about his intentions for the upcoming election.
Crisco’s reputation took a hit last spring, when he agreed to pay a $4,000 fine for forging the signatures of his 2008 campaign treasurer and deputy treasurer on election filings. An investigation by the State Elections Enforcement Commission also found the senator acted illegally as his own treasurer during a seven-month period. As a condition of his settlement, Crisco did not face criminal prosecution.
In an interview Monday, Rossi acknowledged Crisco’s reprimand will be a topic of this year’s election, if he chooses to run, but indicated she will not harp on it.
“I look forward to educating voters on the issues,” she said. “Ethics falls within that, but I plan to focus on what I stand for and what he stands for, and let voters decide.”
The most important issues, Rossi said, will be economic. She called the state budget “unaffordable in the short term and unsustainable over time,” citing two- to four-year deficit projections by the Office of Policy and Management, in excess of $3 billion.
In an effort to curb government spending, Rossi said she would advocate biennial reviews of all state programs to ensure they are effective. Services that are not would be eliminated or privatized.
“I believe in the old adage that the more government tries to do, the less it does well,” she wrote in a statement announcing her candidacy. “State government needs to get back to basics, and that starts with balancing the budget by reducing spending, not raising taxes.”
Rossi, a self-employed paralegal and owner of Rossi Title Co., said she is particularly concerned about Connecticut’s business environment. As of December, the most recent month for which state Department of Labor statistics are available, statewide unemployment was 8.9 percent; 4,828 new unemployment claims were filed in December. The total number of jobs in Connecticut decreased by 59,000 in 2009.
Rossi said she opposes the 10 percent corporate profits surcharge that is part of Democrats’ state budget proposal and will seek to expand job creation tax credits.
Because her approach to balancing the state budget centers on cutting spending, Rossi said she recognizes her legislative strategy would require difficult—and perhaps unpopular—choices.
“But I’m ready for it,” she said. “I’m ready for rolling up my sleeves and making tough decisions. It sounds corny, but I love a challenge.”
Rossi recalled her recent, outspoken criticism of Naugatuck’s school board, which last month requested a roughly $1 million fund transfer from the borough government for the second year in a row. She said she “took a lot of heat” and still has an e-mail inbox full of angry correspondence but is proud of taking a stand.
Rossi has been the leading vote-getter among burgess candidates in each of the last five municipal elections. Her current term as deputy mayor expires in May 2011, which, if she were to win the 17th District, would be four months after taking office as state senator. She said she would not “abandon Naugatuck” and would finish her term as deputy mayor, holding both seats simultaneously.
District Republicans will hold a nominating meeting May 13.
Crisco could not be reached for comment.