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Stephanie Thomas

Running for Secretary of the State

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Party: Democrat

CEP Status: participating


Age: 53

Marital Status: Married

Current Residence: Norwalk

Current Job: Small business owner - fundraising consultant for nonprofits and Connecticut state representative, 143rd District (Norwalk, Wilton, Westport)

Previous Job: President, Susan Ulin Associates

Previous Job: Grant writer for nonprofits

Education: BA from NYU; MS in Nonprofit Management from New School University


Under the purview of your office, what action(s) will you take to reduce out-of-pocket drug costs and reduce the impact of the cost of prescription drugs on taxpayers and insurance premiums?
In these inflationary times, what will you do to help ensure that Connecticut’s middle-income retirees on fixed incomes are able to keep more of their hard-earned money in their pockets?
Under the purview of your office, how do you plan to address the growing long-term care workforce crisis in the state?
Gas prices are higher than ever, which is difficult for older adults on fixed incomes. Yet, alternatives to cars in Connecticut are limited. What will you do, within the purview of your office, to help older adults access other forms of transportation?
What are the most important issues facing Connecticut that your office can address directly, and which of those is your number one priority?
Those who are working to undermine faith in our elections are one of the most important issues facing Connecticut and the country. The Secretary of the State is uniquely positioned to restore faith and fight against misinformation. As Secretary, I will work closely with organizations such as Homeland Security and the National Association of Secretaries of State to ensure that Connecticut is up to date with regard to cybersecurity best practices; ensure that all poll workers, from checkers to registrars, have the training and support they need; will invest resources into civic education and engagement for young people and adults; and will position the website as the place to go for facts to fight misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation.
What is your position on whether Connecticut should open its election primaries to unaffiliated voters?
Although I am aware of the concerns regarding “spoiler” voters, I have spoken with voters who decline to declare a party for many reasons such as fear of reprisal in the workplace, to keep the peace at home, or simply because they don’t like to be pigeonholed and will always vote for a candidate, not a party. With unaffiliated voters outnumbering either major party, I believe it is time to have this conversation if the unaffiliated voter is interested.
Tens of thousands of voters used absentee ballots in the recent primary and many voters say they strongly prefer this convenience. In an effort to increase voter participation, do you support continuing the use of any or all of the following: no-excuse absentee ballots, early voting, and/or making Election Day a holiday?
I support all of the above and as Vice Chair of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, was pleased to co-sponsor and play a role in moving these initiatives through the chamber. With the early voting amendment on the ballot this November and no-excuse absentee voting expected to appear on the 2024 ballot, an Election Day holiday would be less of a priority to ensure ballot convenience.
What other steps can be taken to increase voter participation?
As Secretary of the State, I plan to set a culture from the top down to foster a greater understanding of how to engage with the government. Although our civic responsibility is often explained as casting a ballot on Election Day, democracy only works when we are engaged the other 364 days of the year. By building a culture of civic understanding, I hope to increase voter participation. I also will work to hasten the timeline for the adoption of automatic voter registration which was passed in the legislature in 2021.
Is the state's current method of reporting election results on the Secretary of the State's website adequate to the task in today's technological environment? If not, what would you propose?
When people visit the Secretary of the State website, they expect the information to be timely and accurate. This cannot always be achieved quickly on election night for various reasons such as a faulty machine or a close race necessitating a hand count. I believe that the Election Center portal with its prominently displayed header of “unofficial results” is suitable for posting an immediate tally to keep up with what residents can find on television or in a campaign office, with the understanding that official results will come later.
What can your office do to encourage more people to become entrepreneurs, and is that preferable to the ongoing shortage of workers in many industries?
As a small business owner myself, I believe it is important to build a skilled workforce AND encourage entrepreneurship. As Secretary, I will work to ensure business owners have the tools and resources to thrive. There are many grants, programs, and training that are made available, but it can be difficult to find and access the information. I will also convene industry-related meetings to help build connections for the betterment of all.
What can be done to improve the business climate in Connecticut while COVID-19 continues to be a risk?
The pandemic has been devastating for many local businesses. As one of the most important economic engines in our state, we have to do everything we can to keep these businesses in business. We need to support them with cash infusions, workforce training, and serious reform in the bureaucratic hurdles required to access funds in this time of need. I applaud Governor Lamont for doing exactly this several days ago with the announcement of additional CARES money allocated to provide direct grants to businesses with payroll under $1.5 million. In Hartford, I will continue to fight for access to grants or low/no interest loans and affordable healthcare options that lower their overhead. Healthcare is the second highest cost beyond labor for most businesses who can afford to provide it. We also need to make sure that customers and clients feel safe returning to patronize local businesses by providing clear safety protocol guideline and allowing towns some flexibility around the details based on the local situation. We should also consider another sales-tax-free week to drive consumer demand either during the holiday period or in the new year. As the conditions of the pandemic continue to evolve, we must remember that businesses aren’t one-size-fits-all. Micro and small businesses will need different types of help than mid-sized and large corporations. We need to remain responsive and flexible to help all sizes of businesses thrive during the coming years.
With so much uncertainty ahead about COVID-19, how would you ensure that the people's business – both at the legislature and in all of our elections – will be conducted effectively, and with full participation, in the safest possible manner for the foreseeable future?
Nobody should ever have to choose between their health and their right to vote. However, Connecticut has some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country. During my outreach to voters these past few weeks, the vast majority have reported how pleased they are to have the option to vote more conveniently. The reasons vary - a busy work schedule, several small children at home, chronic pain, no car, and so on - but one thing is clear, more people will vote if they have options. To restrict our voting to one 14-hour timeframe disenfranchises this right for many residents and puts Connecticut behind almost every other state in the country. It is very important in this coming session that the state legislature work to begin the process to implement early voting and consider additional measures such as automatic voter registration and the ability to apply online for an absentee ballot application. These measures will not only make voting more accessible, but safer should the pandemic continue.
With higher education facing major changes because of the pandemic, what steps will you take to make sure that Connecticut’s residents have access to college and/or other job training that won’t leave them tens of thousands of dollars in debt?
What specific legislation would you support to reduce racism in Connecticut?
Legislation can be a lever for change, but it alone cannot reduce racism - that responsibility rests on the shoulders of every person. For example, laws that bus children to nearby high-performing districts might improve outcomes for those students who get to participate, but they do not address why the curriculum being taught is so skewed towards white culture and leaves students of color at a psychological disadvantage. Policies that create ladders to success and keep communities healthy promote a more just society for everyone. Viewing all legislation - whether its affordable college, business development opportunities, affordable healthcare, gun safety, environmental policy, etc. - through a racial equity lens will help ensure that enacted policies are not unfairly biased against people of color. Dismantling systemic racism is a huge task and cannot be achieved without our listening to each other and keeping it top of mind in our daily choices.
What is one specific policy you support to help protect African Americans as an at-risk group during the pandemic?
Connecticut’s revenues will sharply decline as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and, unlike Congress, Connecticut has a balanced budget requirement. What changes would you make to balance the budget? (If you want cuts, be specific what will be cut. If you want to raise taxes, be specific about which taxes.)
What should Connecticut do to re-tool our public health for COVID-19 and the possibility of future pandemics, while also addressing other chronic illnesses that put people at risk every day?
In preparing for the possibility of future pandemics, it is imperative that everyone has access to adequate health care. Within the United States healthcare system, this also means access to health insurance. Hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents lost their jobs due to COVID-19, and along with it, their health insurance or they are facing steep insurance bills to maintain their coverage through COBRA. In March, Access Health CT opened a special enrollment period to allow those without insurance a chance to enroll, but we need affordable healthcare for all Connecticut residents, which is why I support a public option to allow individuals the chance to have insurance separate from their employment, and to give small businesses and nonprofits a more affordable option. It is also crucial that we seek to create policies that eliminate the stigma and coverage gap around mental health. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that over 30% of adults are now reporting symptoms associated with anxiety or depressive disorder due to COVID-19. Other measures such as the continuation of telemedicine and lowering prescription drug costs should be non-partisan. Connecticut residents agree that costs are too high.
How can Connecticut lower healthcare costs while also improving quality and access to care?