Battle for open State Senate seat in southeastern Connecticut

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HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut Republicans have high hopes of taking control of the State Senate on November 8th and are hoping to recapture an open seat on the eastern shoreline and Rhode Island border.

The 18th State Senate District, anchored by Groton, Stonington and North Stonington, stretches along the state border north to include the towns of Preston, Griswold, Voluntown, Plainfield and Sterling.

Democratic State Sen. Andrew Maynard of Stonington was re-elected to this seat two years ago with 58 percent of the vote despite the fact that he never campaigned.

Maynard is the senator that suffered a traumatic brain injury in a bad fall the previous summer. He caused the Democratic Party to scramble earlier this year when he revealed that he would not seek a sixth term.

It came a short time after former Groton Republican Mayor and businesswoman Heather Somers had announced she would run for the seat. You may recognize her as the Republican candidate for Lt. Governor two years ago when Tom Foley lost to Gov. Malloy.

The Democrats eventually picked former Preston selectman Tim Bowles who also served one term in the House. He is a retired educator and social worker with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.

“If you go around and you talk to people, as soon as you even mention Dan Malloy’s name, people have this revulsion, I should say, to it,” Somers said.

Like other Republican candidates, Somers is running hard against Gov. Malloy, the two tax hikes, and the continual state budget crisis, which forecasts indicate will continue next year.

“This is not just a Malloy issue. The hole that we dug ourselves into goes back three administrations. It actually goes back to John Rowland and Jodi Rell,” said Bowles.

Somers argues that the only real solution is to elect enough Republicans like herself to the legislature and give them control for a while.

“If you want things to change; the survival of Connecticut and the future of Connecticut, for not only ourselves, but our future generations really rests in changing the make up of the legislature, there’s just no doubt about it,” she said.

Bowles denies being part of the Democratic establishment when he was in the House.

“Up in Hartford, I was part of the moderate caucus which was comprised of fiscal conservatives, Democrats, and we tried very hard to go ahead and work on budgetary issues,” he said.

“Although it appears maybe people can afford to take another tax increase, they can’t. We have to do something to change the economy,” said Somers, foreshadowing what she sees ahead.

Bowles has a bold plan that includes cutting administrative overhead, more agency consolidation, and reducing the size of the legislature.

“I think there are a number of things we can do; extending terms of office from two to four years is one example, also reduce the size of the state legislature,” he said.

Somers says she has grave issues with both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. She has promised to support the Republican nominee, but makes this point to voters who ask about it; “It is a presidential election, but we are most intimately impacted here in Connecticut by who we send to Hartford.”

Republican candidates for the legislature across the state are saying that one party rule by the Democrats in Hartford is the reason for what seems to be a constant budget crisis and a good reason to give the GOP a try.

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