BERLIN — Both candidates running in the 6th Senate District special election are focused on the economy and their experience.
Rep. Rick Lopes, D-New Britain, is facing Republican Gennaro Bizzarro for the seat, which was left vacant when Democrat Terry Gerratana was appointed by Gov. Ned Lamont as an advisor in the Office of Health Strategy. The district covers Berlin, Farmington and New Britain. The special election is Tuesday.
The candidates, both small business owners, say the state should live within its means, although they differ on the best way of reaching that goal.
Bizzarro, 43, who owns a law firm and serves as New Britain’s corporation counsel, said economic development and spending cuts are needed.
“I’m a staunch fiscal conservative and I think I would be a voice of reason,” he said.
Bizzarro supports the renegotiation of state employee benefit packages. He would honor the commitments that have already been made, but feels spending can be reduced by moving employees to defined contribution plans.
“… (I)f you look at our obligations in Connecticut, the bulk of it is in state employee obligations,” he said.
He is opposed to any new taxes or tolls.
“Every time we turn around, we have a new tax burden being thrust on the residents of this state,” he said.
Bizzarro worked on multiple efforts to bring businesses to New Britain, he said, including the 2015 opening of Costco and the relocation of Celebration Foods’ headquarters to the city.
Lopes, 47, also touted his record of encouraging development in New Britain, pointing to assistance he provided to Stanley Black & Decker’s plans to construct a 20-megawatt fuel cell center in a vacant factory building.
“It’s a huge step forward both for economic development and energy efficiency,” he said.
As a member of the House Energy Committee, he played a part in the rewriting of laws to set aside tax credits for fuel cell energy production. He has also served on the transportation and finance committees since he was first elected in 2012.
Lopes, the owner of a property management company, said he approaches state finances like his business budget.
“I'm a Democrat and I truly believe in the saying that a rising tide raises all boats, … but at the same time running a business is all about being practical,” he said. “I live very frugally in my own life and I expect the state to be run very frugally.”
Lopes said he prefers business-friendly initiatives to spur economic development and measures to raise revenue rather than cuts to an already thin budget.
“We’ve cut an awful lot in the last three or four years in the budget,” he said. “I’m concerned about cutting any more social service programs. We need to find more ways to raise money.”
He said it’s still too early to judge the merits of tolls and is waiting until the Department of Transportation completes a study on the issue to make up his mind.
The race for the 6th Senate District is one of five special elections for the General Assembly following the appointments of five legislators to positions in Lamont’s administration. The 3rd and 5th Senate seats will also be up for election on Tuesday, along with the 39th and 99th House districts.
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