In the backdrop of a contentious presidential election, six candidates within two districts will vie to represent New Haven in the Connecticut state Senate come Jan. 1.
There are three candidates each running to represent Districts 10 and 11 — the two state senate districts that encompass the majority of the Elm City. On Nov. 3, each district will see an incumbent Democrat take on a Republican nominee and a petitioning candidate — a candidate who has successfully completed a petition and fulfilled the necessary signatures to qualify as an unaffiliated candidate.
In District 10, incumbent Democrat Gary Winfield will face Republican Carlos Alvarado and petitioning candidate Jason W. Bartlett. Just east, in District 11, incumbent Democrat Martin Looney will take on challengers Jameson White of the Republican Party and Alex Taubes, a petitioning candidate who identifies as a Socialist.
District 10: Beaver Hills, Newhallville, the Hill, Dixwell and Long Wharf, West Haven
Senator Gary Winfield is running for his fifth term in the Connecticut state Senate this Tuesday. In his time as a state senator, Winfield has stood as a strong proponent for legislation on immigrant’s rights and criminal and juvenile justice reform. In 2018, after two fatal police shootings, he led the passage of Senate Bill 380 as the co-chair of the Judiciary Committee. The bill prohibits law enforcement from firing at a motor vehicle except when there is an imminent threat to an officer or bystander’s life. It also requires police departments to release body camera footage in the case an officer in their department is involved in an incident of deadly force.
As co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, Winfield also led the 2019 passage of Senate Bill 880, which encouraged prosecutorial transparency by collecting, reporting and publishing information about the prosecutor’s decisions. In 2019, Winfield co-sponsored Senate Bill 256, which allows legislators to request the preparation of a racial and ethnic impact statement on bills and amendments.
“The provisions of this bill will help my colleagues and me to understand the full impact on the communities of Connecticut of the legislation we propose,” Sen. Winfield said at the time Senate Bill 256 was signed into law. “By passing this bill, Connecticut lawmakers demonstrate recognition of the fact that the policies created and passed into law in this building can have a disproportionate impact on minority communities.”
Winfield also notably engaged in an eight-hour debate to protect and strengthen the Connecticut Trust Act, which prohibits state and local law enforcement from “serving federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers without a valid federal judicial warrant.”
Winfield’s opponent, Carlos Alvarado, has run his campaign on a platform that looks to overturn many of the policies Winfield has enacted. The West Haven resident has called Winfield’s legislative work “anti-police” and has said he would work to reverse “the damage done” by what he believes to be anti-police sentiment. He has advocated for increased police visibility in public spaces through foot patrols — groups of police officers who patrol an area by walking — and small “sub-stations.”
Alvarado has also looked to separate himself from Winfield by portraying the incumbent as “anti-gun.” While Winfield helped sponsor legislation that would require guns to be stored in locked containers in homes with minors and in unattended motor vehicles, Alvarado has said he would not curtail the rights of “law-abiding” owners. The Republican nominee has also promised to cut “tax burdens” and eliminate the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s toll collection service on roads and bridges.
Petitioning candidate Jason W. Bartlett is the third candidate in the race. He most recently worked as the director of youth services for the city of New Haven from 2014 to 2020 before Elicker fired him in February amid an FBI probe — of which Barlett was a primary subject — into former Mayor Toni Harp’s administration. Bartlett has worked as a proponent of educational reform, creating Youth State, a nonprofit “which aims to end youth violence, lower suspensions, and expulsions.” According to Bartlett’s website, Youth State has engaged over 700 youth per year for the past six years.
Bartlett has centered his campaign on education and criminal justice reform. He has called for the reduction of superior court judge terms from eight to four years, which he says will increase accountability. He has also expressed his opposition to the “qualified immunity” status of law enforcement officers.
Bartlett said in an Oct. 14 debate that he was unsatisfied with Winfield’s advocacy for criminal justice reform, including Winfield’s recent support of LCO 3471, a law that bans chokeholds, allows for officers to be sued by civilians and increases mental health screening for officers. The law, Bartlett said, is a “watered-down version” of the bill advocated by activists.
“That bill shows a failure. It shows the status quo. It was done so that Democrats could have something to show that they did in response to Black Lives Matter,” Bartlett said. “It was a sop. It actually doesn’t speak to the actual injustices.”
The former city director of youth services has also emphasized his desire to improve education equity by ensuring that every student in Connecticut has access to a Chromebook or laptop and internet access. If elected, he would like to see the implementation of a state-level committee focused on tax increment financing, a form of public funding made through the sale of bonds. Bartlett has said he believes this would stimulate the local economy to address the effects of the pandemic.
District 11: East Rock, Fair Haven, Wooster Square, Whitneyville, Cedar Hill, parts of Hamden and North Haven
Seasoned State Senator Martin Looney is also facing challenges from a Republican nominee and a petitioning challenger. Looney, currently running for a fourteenth term, is the Senate’s president pro tempore — the highest-ranking legislator in the State Senate and leader of the Senate Democrats, who currently hold 22 of the 36 seats in the upper house.
As leader of the senate, Looney co-sponsored bills on earned-income tax credit for low-to-moderate income working individuals, increasing the minimum wage to $15 and paid family and medical leave for all Connecticut residents. As state Senate majority leader, he led the passage of the 2011 and 2012 Job Bills, which “provided subsidies to small businesses for a portion of newly hired workers’ salaries in their first six months on the job.” The Job Bills also supported job training for post-9/11 combat veterans.
Republican challenger Jameson White opposes Looney’s leadership, calling for a more fiscally conservative state legislature. White’s website claims that “for the past four decades, the legislature in Connecticut has given us nothing but increased spending and higher taxes to cater to special interest groups.”
White has said his platform will focus on increasing economic opportunities for the middle class. The New Haven resident and account executive has said he will seek to cut government spending and lower taxes to increase household incomes as well as reduce the tax burden on businesses. Like his Republican peers, White aims to boost police presence by “putting an end to so-called ‘sanctuary cities’” and placing police officers in schools.
Socialist civil rights lawyer Alex Taubes, who lost the Democratic endorsement to Looney in August, has successfully petitioned as a candidate for the general election. Taubes proudly states that he does not accept lobbyist donations, supports Medicare for All and advocates for the Green New Deal. Taubes also has said he hopes to abolish money bail and raise the minimum wage in Connecticut from $15 to $20.
In an Oct. 22 debate, Taubes criticized Looney for his long tenure in office.
“We’ve tried the same leadership for 40 years now. This is a progressive district. It’s time to try something else,” Taubes said.
New Haven residents can engage in same-day voter registration on Nov. 3 at City Hall.
Razel Suansing | firstname.lastname@example.org