After learning that Republican Gail Lavielle would be running unopposed yet again for Connecticut’s 143rd House District seat, Norwalk resident Stephanie Thomas petitioned her way onto the Democratic Party ballot out of concern about “what is happening in the country and in the state.”
The 143rd House District consists of portions of Wilton, Norwalk and Westport, and Lavielle has served as its representative since 2011.
“I’ve never been the type of person to criticize without trying to fix the problem,” said Thomas, who downsized her business, started volunteering with charities, and got involved with the Norwalk Democratic Town Committee following the 2016 presidential election.
With Republicans “facing a crisis where they are unable to stand up to the tone and policies that are being set at the top,” Thomas said, she “began to fear what would happen” to her beloved home state of Connecticut “if so-called moderate Republicans were in a more right-leaning system.”
“Our state Senate is already 50-50, and [the Democratic] majority in the House is minimal,” said Thomas.
“I decided that I had to do anything and everything I could to prevent the tone and tenor and distraction that is happening at the national level from taking hold in Connecticut — and to ensure that someone in our district is willing and able to advocate for issues I care about, such as voting rights, gun safety, access to higher education, and equity.”
If elected to the 143rd House District seat, Thomas said her top priority would be to “infuse a new voice into the conversation.” More specifically, she said, “a voice focused on building solutions [rather than] sound bites, giving all voices and ideas a fair review, and moving us forward.”
Thomas said the issues she would most like to address include gun safety, fiscal responsibility, and infrastructure support.
Although Connecticut has strong gun laws, said Thomas, “everyone, from NRA [National Rifle Association] members to law enforcement officers to mothers, believe that there are loopholes that should be closed and that there are related issues [like] mental illness and intolerance that go hand-in-hand with gun safety regulations.”
As a state representative, Thomas said, she would “like to be proactive — not reactive — to close these loopholes and strengthen our regulations.”
Thomas said the fiscal irresponsibility that started back when she was in high school needs to be corrected, but done so in a way that doesn’t short-change “the very things that will help us grow and attract people to the state.”
“I hope to protect areas, such as education, skills training, affordable college, transportation, and small business incentives,” said Thomas, and give “a close look at all potential revenue stream ideas, such as the Legacy Obligation Trust, tolling, expansion of HUSKY Health, and prison reform.”
Because roads and public transportation are “essential” to attracting and keeping workers in Connecticut, Thomas said, “we need to invest in improvements.”
Thomas said she is in support of a tolling policy that “gives breaks to residents while raising money from out-of-state drivers,” as well as a lockbox to “protect our ongoing investment from funds raised.”
Thomas said she is “an American success story,” which is why she believes in “doing everything [she] can to serve.”
“Growing up very poor and being a woman of color presented its own challenges, but my mother made sure I knew that I could and was expected to do everything I wanted,” she said.
While earning A’s in school, Thomas said, she volunteered, and also helped support her family. She also worked to put herself through college, and has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from New York University, as well as a master’s degree in nonprofit management from the New School University.
Today, Thomas is owner and president of Stetwin Consulting, a Norwalk-based small business that provides fund-raising and events expertise to nonprofits.
A certified fund-raising executive with nearly 30 years’ experience in fund-raising consulting, advising, and problem-solving for nonprofit organizations, Thomas said she has “first-hand experience with the working poor, disadvantaged students, gun violence victims, seniors, and many others left behind when government does not work to strengthen all its members.”
“My decades of living with these stories gives me a different level of understanding of just about every issue out there,” said Thomas, who is also involved with the Norwalk Housing Foundation and Carver Foundation of Norwalk.
As “a natural leader and consensus builder,” Thomas said, she is “prepared to be a champion for everyone to build a stronger, fiscally solvent, and more equitable Connecticut,” and will “fight for legislation to protect voting rights, gun safety, a woman’s right to choose, and affordable college.”
At the same time, Thomas said, she will “be present and always listening — even if we don’t agree.”
Thomas said running for office has been “the best thing [she’s] have ever done” because going door-to-door has allowed her to “understand the heart of residents in a way that headlines seldom do.”
“I have spoken with everyone from Trump supporters to moderates to far left liberals, and have always managed to find common ground and respect in our conversations. Respect has been missing from political dialogue, but I believe we can do better,” she said.
“I know I have a lot to offer, can do a good job, and would like to be part of a new era for Connecticut.”
Thomas has been endorsed by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, the Working Families Party, and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
She has also received the endorsements of U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, U.S. Congressman Jim Himes, Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, and Wilton Board of Finance member John Kalamarides.