NAUGATUCK — As we inch ever closer to Election Day, now less than four months away, the candidates for state senate in the 17th District have entered the final stages of their campaigns.
Incumbent State Senator Joseph Crisco (D-Woodbridge) will again be opposed by Naugatuck Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi, a Republican, who ran unsuccessfully against the senator two years ago.
It has been a much different campaign this time around for Rossi, who in 2008 was thrown into the race just seven weeks before Election Day.
“In 2008 the campaign was very short,” Rossi said. “What is different now is I really had the time and the opportunity to form even more relationships, not only with individuals but different groups and organizations also. I’ve had two years to become more familiar to people in the 17th district. Time makes a very big difference and I’m very, very confident this go-around.”
After suffering the loss, Rossi did not dwell on how her condensed campaign fell short—instead, she said, she immediately took to the streets to promote herself for her next shot at the senate two.
“I’ve been throughout the 17th district since two days after my loss in 2008,” Rossi said. “I’ve been to civic events, organizational events, Flag Day ceremonies, concert series and knocked on doors. I’ve basically been to every event I can get to in the 17th district without neglecting my duties, which I take seriously here as Deputy Mayor.”
As Rossi actively continues her two-year long campaign, her opponent, Crisco, doesn’t consider himself to be campaigning at all.
“I don’t look at it as campaigning,” Crisco said. “I look at it that I have a responsibility for my district and for the state, and basically that is what we concentrate on. I’m a senator; I’m fulfilling my senator responsibilities. I address all elections the same. I give it 110%. I try to communicate with people my proven service and my proven record.”
In his time as senator Crisco has done a great deal of work on health care by raising awareness of breast cancer, autism, and clinical trials. He has also recently been working to improve domestic violence legislation and has risen funding for vocational technical schools in the district, among other achievements.
Each candidate, it appears, has the overwhelming support of his or her respective town committees in the borough, and both chairmen feel as if his or her candidate has what it takes to be victorious on Election Day.
“We like senator Crisco,” Leonard Caine, Chairman of the Naugatuck Democratic Town Committee, said. “He’s done well for the district, and in particular has brought money to Naugatuck that was well-needed for various projects. I think its going to be a very spirited race between the deputy mayor and the senator. I’m confident the democratic candidate will do well in the 17th district.”
“We all see Tammi working hard for the town,” Dorothy Hoff, Chairman of the Naugatuck Republican Town Committee, said. “She’s very popular, she’s been elected Deputy Mayor since she’s run, and she works hard. These are different times. Tammi has had another two years to prove how hard she can work for the district. Since that time, she has been visible in the entire district, not just in Naugatuck but all over the 17th district.”
The two differ on their take of the work being done in Hartford for the 17th district, which includes the towns of Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Derby, Hamden, Naugatuck and Woodbridge.
“I feel that we need to bring better accountability to Hartford, we need to be doing more to keep business in state as well as attract new business, and the only way to do that is to start to run government more efficiently,” Rossi said. “We need to return to the core values of government – public safety, public transportation, and public education.”
Crisco defended and praised the work he and his fellow senators had done for the 17th and other districts.
“We’re doing so many great things in Hartford,” Crisco said. “We’re trying and we’re very fortunate the people elect us and we want to continue to deserve that trust and continue to work hard. We will continue to stay committed to doing things such as enhancing job creation, improving health care, and enhancing education.”
Some—and especially some Republicans—believe the current condition of the nation and states have inspired an anti-incumbent feeling among voters. They believed this is what could be the linchpin in the election and the overwhelming difference between the 2008 and 2010 elections.
When asked if she feels there is an anti-incumbent feeling, Rossi replied, “Yes, without a doubt with the current situation of our state. More and more people I speak to are extremely frustrated with where we are and are very hungry for fresh ideas and new people.”
Her supporting party agreed.
“This is a different time for her running,” said Hoff. “There is more of an anti-incumbent feeling right now then there was two years ago.”
The incumbent Democrats did not deny the fact that there is a mood for change, but said it was more of an issue on a larger scale than a local level.
“You see it on a national level,” said Crisco. “Some people believe that most of your state senators’ and state representatives’ relationships with their districts are more personal as compared to a U.S. Senator or Congressmen. I think a lot depends on how the health care bill works out and if they get the financial institution bill done.”
“Two years ago you had a presidential election and more voters usually come out in presidential election years,” Caine, the Democratic committee char, said. “The president does help all candidates beneath him. I’d say there is an anti-incumbent feeling in the nation, but I don’t see that much of it in Connecticut.”
Both candidates are enrolled in the Citizens’ Election Fund. Under the fund’s rules, candidates must raise $15,000 from contributors within and without their district to be eligible for public funding.