Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Curry needs all the help he can get right now. With just a few days left before the Nov. 5 election, the polls show a double-digit gap between himself and his opponent, Republican incumbent Gov. John G. Rowland. Rowland has outspent him 4-1.
What people need to know is that Bill Curry deserves our help. John Rowland’s administration has grown stagnant and careless, if not downright irresponsible, over the last eight years. Rowland’s co-chief of staff, who has since been replaced, handed out nearly $200 million of state funds in unsecured loans to Enron. Rowland denies any knowledge of these actions, but the Republican Governor’s Association, which he heads, received an $80,000 donation from Enron shortly thereafter, suggesting the contrary. On top of this, Connecticut faces a growing budget deficit and tougher economic times, especially in urban areas like New Haven. The time has come for trust in the governor’s office to be rebuilt. The time has come for fresh ideas and clean hands.
It seems as though Curry has been defined too much as the candidate without Rowland’s deficiencies. Curry is portrayed melodramatically as a final hope pitted against an overwhelming shadow. But Bill Curry is no Obi-Wan Kenobi. He’s a former state comptroller. He’s a domestic strategist from the early days of the Clinton White House. He’s a native of Hartford, born and raised, and he was one of the youngest state senators in Connecticut history. He’s endorsed by every union but one in Connecticut, by The New York Times, and by the Yale Daily News. He would make a formidable opponent for any incumbent, not just a corrupt one. This guy has done his homework, and you know it the moment you meet him.
I first met Bill Curry at a Yale College Democrats event last spring. I remember being apprehensive about the meeting. Curry was expecting a big turnout, and the apathetic friends that I had coerced into coming were expecting to leave quickly. Curry was coming from another event and arrived at Dwight Hall a few minutes late. My friends were ready to leave, and frankly I was too. But when he walked in, the room was immediately energized. As I left Dwight Hall an hour and a half later with my friends I said, “Damn, that was actually worth going to.” That’s high praise in the world of the College Dems.
From the beginning the Curry campaign has been purposeful and substantive. His goal has been to win over the votes of the people of Connecticut by specifically addressing their concerns, like the poor quality of public education in urban areas and the unreasonably high tax burden on Connecticut citizens. Curry did not want his campaign to be about a photo and a slogan, and he did not want to be, as some people seem to have come to think of him, “the guy running against Rowland.” His intention, as he described it last spring, was to run a campaign that addressed the issues, instead of avoiding them.
If you go to the Curry Web site (www.curryforct.com) you’ll find a link to a page called “Issues” that is by far the most extensive section of the site. In it, Curry, along with his running-mate state Senate Majority Leader George Jepsen, addresses a series of problems, like inequity in public school spending, and emphasizes his proposed solutions. I think the issue of public education is one that speaks the most strongly to Yale students. Many of us have had firsthand experience with the deplorable condition of New Haven’s public schools. The National Education Association has said that “Connecticut faces a serious inequity problem in its public schools, the gap between the richest and the poorest districts in spending is one of the worst in the country.” The reason for this is that Gov. Rowland has kept state funding for local education at 40 percent, despite a Connecticut Supreme Court recommendation that, in order to offset inequity, it be raised to 50 percent. Places like Greenwich can have exceptionally high quality public education, while New Haven’s schools are simply inadequate. Curry’s solution isn’t just to throw money at the problem, although making good on the Supreme Court’s recommendation of 50 percent funding is part of his plan. Curry also proposes a series of initiatives to make schools cleaner, safer and more efficiently managed. He calls it “A+ Education”, which seems trite until you realize that it is a reference to the grade of D that the Connecticut state education system was given by the magazine Education Week earlier this year.
Each of the policy proposals that Curry makes is similarly well thought out and convincingly argued. Curry has founded his campaign on these strong arguments, and he continues to stand by them. I like to think that this election will be remembered as a contest of ideas against money and power. Sadly, money and power seem to be prevailing. Curry needs an enormous push in the next few days to be able to win this election. We can still make a difference, and I, for one, am going to give it a shot. This guy, Bill Curry — he deserves it.
Peter Ortner is a sophomore in Morse College.