Flanked by several prominent city and state Democrats, gubernatorial candidate Bill Curry outlined his key campaign issues at a rally in New Haven on Wednesday. Curry, a former adviser to President Clinton, is seeking to overcome an at-times large polling gap in his bid to oust incumbent Republican Gov. John G. Rowland.
“Are you ready? Are we gonna get Bill Curry and George Jepsen elected? Let me hear you one more time!” state Comptroller Nancy Wyman urged the crowd at last night’s rally, held at Conte/West Hills Magnet School in the city’s Wooster Square district.
Curry attacked Rowland for the state’s outstanding debt, saying the governor has failed to make good use of state tax dollars. He said that under Rowland, the state’s transportation system has remained in shambles. Connecticut’s recent energy and environmental policies have been irresponsible, Curry said, citing what he called Rowland’s disregard for the pollution produced by the state’s “Sooty Six” power plants.
After he was introduced by Wyman and running mate George Jepsen, Curry took time to address issues on his own campaign platform, one of the largest of which is property tax reform.
Connecticut’s property tax is currently aimed at the middle class, Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04 said. Under Curry, Healey said, those who can afford it will pay an income tax instead of a property tax.
Property tax reform also has implications for the state’s education system since Connecticut’s public schools are largely funded by property taxes. Some local Democrats said Curry’s ideas on property taxes will help give the educational system a much-needed boost.
“Bill Curry offers a solution for some of the critical problems we face in Connecticut. Number one would be his approach to addressing education and putting it back to the front level,” said Susan Voigt, chairwoman of the city’s Democratic party.
“[I want] every school to be a magnet school,” Curry said.
Curry also pushed for an increase in the overall standard of living in Connecticut’s cities.
“It’s not visible cities, it’s livable cities [we want],” said Curry, who has attacked several of Rowland’s urban renewal projects.
Curry said that improving public transportation will help revitalize some of Connecticut’s most depressed cities.
But Yale College Republican Frank Walsh ’04 said Rowland’s urban renewal strategy has worked.
“Gov. Rowland is the right choice for Connecticut,” he said in an e-mail. “Rowland’s priority for the next four years is urban renewal, building upon the education reform that has helped Connecticut fourth and sixth graders lead the nation in math, science, and reading.”
“In his eight years, he has cut taxes by $2 billion and hopes to lower them even more in his coming term to help local businesses,” Walsh said.
A recent University of Connecticut poll puts Curry 18 points below Rowland, but this statistic has hardly been consistent. In fact, polls to date have placed Curry everywhere from 45 to nine points behind.
At the rally, Jepsen elaborated on what he said were more of Rowlands’s deficiencies.
“The public wants to know why he vetoed campaign finance reform. They want to know why we have a billion-dollar deficit,” he said. “[They’re asking] ‘Governor, what did you do with all that money?'”
Rob Smuts ’01, who now works under DeStefano at city hall, said Curry’s policies will improve parts of the state that Rowland has neglected.
“It will be great to have a governor who cares about the environment, who has a transportation policy, and who understands that cities need more than just a shiny convention center,” Smuts said. “They need a partner in the state.”
“I think what he will do is create a state where the economy can grow. He’ll run a smart government,” he said.