State Senator District 1

Barbara Ruhe

1 CTNewsJunkie Reader Endorsements

Party: Republican

CEP Status: nonparticipating

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Current Residence: Wethersfield

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John Fonfara

1 CTNewsJunkie Reader Endorsements

Party: Democrat

CEP Status: participating

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Current Residence: Hartford

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Mary L. Sanders

5 CTNewsJunkie Reader Endorsements

Party: Green Party

CEP Status: nonparticipating

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Age: 67

Marital Status: Divorced

Current Residence: Hartford

Current Job: Activist, Spanish Tutor and Grandma

Previous Job: 1998 - 2015 Executive Director Spanish Speaking Center of New Britain

Previous Job: 1988 - 1997 Associate Director of Counseling, Education & Training, YWCA of N.B.

Education: Capital Community College & CCSU - Spanish, Social Work & Business Management

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.)
I don't have the advantage of the incumbent in knowing the ins and outs of our budget but I can say that I would not vote for cuts to any basic human services, education and training programs, healthcare, housing, food assistance or childcare programs for example. I would first try to identify any underutilized programs, duplicated services, waste or fraud. I would look at any overlapping programs or departments and evaluate any potential for combining or merging administrative functions. I want to see cannabis legalized and taxed, which would also create jobs. I believe State banks, public utilities, reduced police and corrections budgets would reduce the need to increase taxes. I would support a fraction of a millionaire's tax but we first need to eliminate any wasted resources currently being collected.
What can be done to improve the business climate in Connecticut while COVID-19 continues to be a risk?
We need to make sure businesses have the resources and necessary equipment to maintain worker and client safety. We can help businesses, in particular small businesses, by making it easier for them to access emergency funding when needed. Payroll protection programs should have been more readily accessible these last 6 months and could have prevented many businesses from closing and many workers from losing their jobs permanently. I read that CBIA wants legislators to sign on to a few proposals that I would support; these include: creating workforce training programs for in-demand industries that would offer better earnings and perhaps lure new business to CT; they are also proposing the elimination of sales tax on job training programs, related safety and PPE equipment. I’m in agreement; if we want to improve our economy we need to invest in our workforce. If we want businesses to succeed, we need to help get them the resources they need. I heard folks talk about helping small businesses establish a pre-tax crisis fund, from which they could draw down not only what they’ve tucked away, but any government assistance that down the line could be directly deposited. Of course that would mean the banks or other middlemen would be out their cut and more could go to direct relief. I’m about getting rid of waste and duplication. I believe we can do more with less, so a social progressive but fiscal moderate?
What specific legislation would you support to reduce racism in Connecticut?
Truly reducing racism should be the goal and is a lifelong commitment of mine. It requires a multilevel comprehensive re-education of the masses which cannot be developed without the communities they involve. For now, we can lessen the effects of this racism and legislate answers to the discrimination perpetrated. Starting with policing: unless we dismantle or overhaul the system, how officers are hired and trained, supervised and held accountable for their actions, nothing will change. Police unions must stop defending officers that commit crimes, are biased in their policing or are otherwise abusing their power. I testified at the LOB year after year regarding racial profiling and excessive force. A few of the proposed changes to the Alvin Penn Racial Profiling Act were enacted thru the years. Unfortunately, much of what was most recently passed into law was a repeat of things they passed years ago, like body cameras. The problem has been enforcement. My lens extends beyond that though, to look at the drug war and the faulty prison industrial complex and all its abuses as well. Of course, social, and racial justice goes far beyond policing and the prison system. Meeting the basic needs of all is a priority, access to healthcare, safe and affordable housing, food, quality education and livable wage jobs. Making sure that no one is discriminated against, regardless of race, national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender identification, religion or any other reason. These issues must be given equal attention, as well as addressing income inequality. This doesn’t necessarily mean I want higher income people to cough up money for a bunch of new initiatives. As a social progressive but fiscal moderate, I think we can do more with less. I believe there is a lot of waste, duplication of services, and fraud that if eliminated would free up money for some of these. I also believe community college and state colleges should be tuition free, run with private foundation and a mix of state and federal funding. I believe cannabis should be legalized, regulated and taxed, bringing new revenue, creating jobs in a new industry and keeping folks out of jail. I also believe we should have state banks and public utilities, and reduce military, police and corrections budgets. I do not believe we should cooperate with ICE. All of these could contribute to more social and racial justice.
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?
Even before this shut-down it was difficult to ensure that business be conducted to those standards, so we do not want to return to that normal. The elections are often ineffective in getting the candidates most voters agree would be good, but due to the rigged system have slim chances. Ranked Choice Voting, Proportional Representation, among other things could incentivize uninterested voters to participate and would give the major parties a reason to stop playing dirty. As for safety and efficiency during the pandemic or any other public crisis, we need to be better prepared, we cannot count on the federal government to come to our rescue nor guide us. We must ensure the health and welfare of both those in public service and the communities they serve by having an adequate stock of PPE, accessible testing sites with quick turnaround on results and flexibility on how services are provided.
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?
The Green Party supports education and lifelong learning and advocates for free community and state colleges. Workforce Development programs, apprenticeships, and other vocational training programs, in particular at the Voc-Tech high schools and 2-year colleges, need to be invested in. Unfortunately, there are numerous private institutions charging tens of thousands of dollars to many students who should not even be there and will probably not work in those fields. During my years as a career counselor I met so many that were $30, $40 thousand dollars in debt for programs they were not successful in or careers they were not happy in. That must stop, and the legislature needs to provide the oversight. Programs should be evaluated for their value and efficiency in putting people to work in livable wage jobs leading to growth and opportunity. People stuck in low-wage jobs with no career ladder will be seeking public assistance when their wages do not keep up with inflation. A highly skilled workforce will be able to demand higher wages benefitting both them and the State. The latest United Way ALICE report states that 40% of state residents and 66% of Hartford resident do not have enough monthly income to meet their needs, and this was before the pandemic! The Green Party supports a minimum wage of $20 per hour; CT legislators dragged their feet for so long that $15 no longer meets the need. We also support the government being the employer of last resort, meaning if there’s no work for you, we will employ you and pay you a livable wage. There’s plenty of work to do, especially in the Green New Deal.
What is one specific policy you support to help protect African Americans as an at-risk group during the pandemic?
I think protecting African Americans, Latinos, the elderly or chronically ill are pretty much addressed in other answers but again must include access to rapid result testing sites, sufficient protective equipment, accessible healthcare and remediation of any food or housing insecurity.
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?
Better use of existing resources by eliminating waste and duplication and a proactive approach. We need to be better prepared and on alert. We cannot count on the federal government to provide guidance let alone resources. While we must pursue any resource available we must be prepared to do without it. Scattered site healthcare centers vs. larger settings may help contain spreading illnesses as will the growing use of telehealth appointments. Universal healthcare would see more people receiving the care they need to manage their chronic illnesses and lessen more expensive interventions down the road.
How can Connecticut lower healthcare costs while also improving quality and access to care?
Again, I’ll start by mentioning waste, fraud and duplication of services. Too many layers of management affect provision of care. The Green Party advocates for a single payer system, beyond Medicare for All, including dental and vision, which would eliminate the need for money spent on administering different programs, the money spent on advertising by competing insurance companies, and would help reduce the occurrence of fraud. Money could instead be invested in making sure our healthcare facilities are fully and competently staffed and equipped, and free of the extra billing requirements currently employed. Healthcare providers would not feel like they must meet quotas and would be better able to meet the needs of their patients. More money could be invested on preventative care and the long-term health and well-being of our communities.