Susan Bysiewicz ’83 has spent the past few months traveling around Connecticut in her bid to become the state’s next lieutenant governor. On Thursday night, she stopped in New Haven to speak at Yale.
In an hour-long Q&A session at William L. Harkness Hall, Bysiewicz primarily discussed the 2018 election, her political career and the issues facing Connecticut. The event, held by the Yale College Democrats, drew a crowd of around 20 people.
“Here’s why I love public service and politics,” said Bysiewicz, who served as Connecticut’s secretary of state from 1999 to 2011. “You have the opportunity to go places you would never go, meet people you never would have met otherwise and you see how your time and talents can make a difference.”
Bysiewicz started her talk by describing the issues facing Connecticut, including the “brain drain” of skilled young people leaving the state for better opportunities in places like New York. She praised New Haven as a city that is successfully retaining young people, citing transit-oriented development and business incubators as particularly effective programs in the Elm City.
Yet much of the discussion centered on Bysiewicz’s own political career. To a crowd of primarily Yale Democrats, she told the story of her first campaign to become a Connecticut state representative. Running against the former mayor of Middletown, her hometown, Bysiewicz recounted the hours she spent campaigning, including knocking on hundreds of doors every day from 10 a.m. until dusk.
“I was an energetic person with some good thoughts on what to do for my hometown,” she said. “I got 73 percent of the vote for doing all that work.”
After representing the 100th district in the State House for six years, Bysiewicz served as Connecticut’s 72nd secretary of state. She initially ran for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2010, but decided to drop out despite favorable poll numbers.
Asked about her proudest accomplishments as secretary of state, Bysiewicz pointed to her reformation of Connecticut’s voting system from a network of sometimes-dysfunctional lever voting machines to an electronically counted paper ballot system.
The conversation eventually turned toward Bysiewicz’s current campaign.
Bysiewicz declared her intention to run for governor in April, but decided to pair up with current Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont SOM ’80 a week before the Democrats’ May convention. The two both received endorsements from the state Democratic Party.
“We had a conversation and decided that we would be a team,” Bysiewicz said. “We both thought that would give the Democrats the best chance to win.”
Bysiewicz said she believes the economy and job creation are the most important issues this election cycle, and that voters will reward candidates who present plans to address the state’s budget crisis.
She also emphasized the importance of electing Democratic officials across the state to provide a buffer against national politics.
“The people who are running for statewide office are the firewall between families in our state and the wrong-headed policies coming out of the Supreme Court, the White House and a Republican Congress,” she said.
She cited women’s reproductive rights and health care as two policies that state officials should safeguard against national policy changes.
Asked by Jordan Cozby ’20, the president of the Yale College Democrats, how Democrats can improve the standing of their party in Connecticut, Bysiewicz emphasized the competitiveness of many races in Connecticut and the importance of young Democratic voters.
She noted that Connecticut’s state Senate is currently split evenly between 18 Democrats and 18 Republicans.
Yale College Democrats Communications Director Ananya Kumar-Banerjee ’21 said one of the main purposes of the event was to introduce Bysiewicz’s positions to the Yale community.
“We don’t want people just blindly supporting Democratic candidates,” she said.
In the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, Bysiewicz beat Eva Zimmerman, an activist who served on the Newtown Legislative Council, by 24 points.
Conor Johnson | email@example.com