On the Campaign Trail: Rodgerson, Himes, Sharlach, Lavielle

Labor union endorses Rodgerson

One of the state’s largest labor unions with 65,000 members, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) threw its support behind Democratic challenger for state representative Keith Rodgerson’s election bid today in the 143rd district representing Norwalk, Wilton and Westport.

“Rodgerson knows firsthand how to create good jobs here in Connecticut so that workers can support their families, young people can get a good start in life, and everyone can have a shot at the American dream,” said Paul Filson, director of the union. “Keith is a fourth generation Connecticut resident who knows that health care, elder care and other vital services in this state must be available for all our families.”

Mr. Filson went on to criticize Mr. Rodgerson’s opponent, incumbent Gail Lavielle, saying her “activism on behalf of WalMart as their former spokesperson was noted nationally for its aggressive tone towards small businesses.”

In accepting the endorsement, Mr. Rodgerson said, “I am humbled by this endorsement and do not take lightly the importance of our service and healthcare workers. They are on the front lines against the spread of Ebola, school safety, and play a critical role in the care of our seniors.”

This endorsement, his campaign said, “adds to an already diverse amount of support for Rodgerson’s candidacy, from various constituencies including teachers, social workers, health care workers, public employees, and property services employees.”

“It is very gratifying to get support from so many different areas of our economy,” Mr. Rodgerson said. “This illustrates why I’m running for office in the first place: in her four years in Hartford, our current representative hasn’t been as successful as she says she’s been. When you introduce over 100 bills to the General Assembly and have none pass in four years, that results in a liability for our district. As somebody who would come to Hartford with a fresh perspective, I can be a better advocate for Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton.”

Himes hosts college affordability roundtable

Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) recently moderated a roundtable discussion on higher education affordability and access at Norwalk Community College, during which he discussed his legislative efforts, including the recent introduction of the College Affordability and Innovation Act, to increase higher education opportunities and control long-term cost growth.

“Connecticut residents have some of the highest student debt loads in the nation. As we continue to work to help our students pay for their education, we simply need to rein in the actual costs of a high-quality education,” Mr. Himes said.

He introduced the College Affordability and Innovation Act of 2014 (H.R. 5674) in September as the companion to the Senate bill championed by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT). The legislation is designed to both encourage innovation and promote accountability at our nation’s institutes of higher learning.

The bill would create a new evidence-based grant program to promote greater experimentation in delivering higher education to middle- and low-income students. The grants will go to innovative programs designed to reduce the amount of classroom time and decrease the costs of completing higher education degrees, such as competency-based courses, online education, and dual enrollment or fast-track programs.

It would also create an independent commission of stakeholders, including students and faculty, and education experts to develop minimum accountability standards for making college more affordable, providing better access for middle and low-income students and providing value to students.

Sharlach on transportation

Addressing the “overwhelming” traffic on I-95 and the Merritt Parkway, Phil Sharlach, a Democrat who is challenging incumbent Toni Boucher in the race for the 26th state Senate seat, said “Commuter rails rely on underfunded infrastructure. We lack freight rail. With traffic, the 45-minute commute between New York and Connecticut is one and one-half hours. Any additional congestion and traffic is a nightmare.

“Copious trucks, lack of freight, and weak commuter rail infrastructure synergize to hold the economy back, slow job growth, reduce property values and pollute the air,” he added.

The problems are so entrenched, he said, they are “starting to feel normal to southwestern Connecticut.

“Tax incentives to small businesses may be a part of the short-term fix, but over the long-term, the state’s fundamental residents and businesses will struggle. Communities in southwestern Connecticut pay an exorbitant share of the tax dollars, but receive an order of magnitude less than government spending. Tax dollars should work for them, not against them.

As a solution, Mr. Sharlach proposes “the New York-Connecticut Transportation Authority. The NYCTA is an all-encompassing approach to resolve Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure crisis. The NYCTA will be an independent, non-governmental entity formed by New York State and Connecticut. Public and open market financing will be NYCTA’s source of capital. The operation would own, maintain and be responsible for surface modes of transit under NYCTA jurisdiction. This includes designated highways, bridges, tunnels, and commuter and freight rails.

“Freight rail is the most affordable way to move massive amounts of goods through the country. The aging track beds cannot handle freight trains because they are not up to today’s standards. The catenary wires and bridges are too low for double-stacked freight cars. Instead of using expensive trucks to carry goods across the state, freight rail will appeal to businesses as a lower cost and faster method of transportation. Commuters will save time on our highways immediately; money will be saved from reduced maintenance costs. Furthermore, freight rail is more environmentally friendly than trucking.

“In order to survive in a competitive national and global economy, the state needs to address transportation with a serious, long-term solution. I want to be part of a solution that says ‘yes’ to solutions, rather than sitting on the sidelines watching future generations struggle with the problems from our past.”

Former state Rep. John Hetherington endorses Lavielle

Former 125th district state Rep. John Hetherington this week announced his endorsement of state Rep. Gail Lavielle, who is running for re-election to the 143rd House district.

“As a state representative, I was privileged to represent part of Wilton while Gail Lavielle covered the rest. I therefore had a chance to see how she responds to the community as well as to see her in action on the House floor. She is first-rate in both respects,” Mr. Hetherington said.

“Smart, Gail quickly understood the workings of the legislature. Sophisticated, Gail readily grasped how things really get done. She saw immediately that legislation virtually never survives as introduced, and that a subtle language change in committee or in caucus screening can make all the difference for a community. She quickly built the reputation for reasonableness and the bipartisan relationships that are necessary for moving legislation forward and achieving results for constituents,” he added.

“It is worth noting that early in her legislative service, Rep. Lavielle’s work earned her appointments to leadership roles as Ranking Member of the Commerce Committee and of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation. She has also been appointed to serve as a member of the key Appropriations, Education, and Higher Education Committees.

“Distinctly cosmopolitan, Gail sees issues in a broad context. At the same time, she understands immediately the importance of every local issue and constituent concern.

“Gail is especially well suited to her office both by personal strengths and recognized achievements. Her balanced approach to issues is reflected in her endorsement by both business and environmental groups, as well as the CT Association of Retired Teachers and the Commuter Action Group.

“Gail understands what representative government means and frequently seeks out her constituents to be sure she learns about their most pressing concerns,” Mr. Hetherington continued. “Few people could understand and represent as well as Gail the issues of the City of Norwalk and the two towns of Wilton and Westport. I am proud to endorse Gail Lavielle for re-election as state representative.”

Mr. Hetherington served the 125th House district from 2003 through 2012.

CBIA endorses Lavielle

Ms. Lavielle picked up another endorsement this week, this one from the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA), which has 10,000 member companies.

“Gail Lavielle knows the challenges facing our economy and how to create an economic climate in Connecticut that will help encourage private investment and create opportunities,” said Joe Brennan, CBIA executive vice president.

“We encourage voters to return her to Hartford.”

Jim Himes endorses Keith Rodgerson

Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) has endorsed Keith Rodgerson for Connecticut’s 143rd state House district.

“Keith Rodgerson has been an outstanding advocate for the issues that matter most to Fairfield County and I am proud to endorse him for state representative,” Mr. Himes said. “Keith has a proven commitment to public service and a deep knowledge of the economic development and transportation issues that are critical to our region’s prosperity. He has the experience, leadership and independent approach we need in Hartford.”

In response, Mr. Rodgerson said, “I’m honored to receive Congressman Himes’ endorsement. I look forward continuing to work constructively in Fairfield County with Jim to help solve our transit woes, grow our economy, and keep in place common-sense laws that protect our children.

“I’m running because our elected officials need to put local interests first, and as a life-long resident of Southwestern Connecticut, I will do just that.”

Mr. Rodgerson is a Wilton Economic Development Commissioner and certified economic development finance professional. He is the director of the Neighborhood District Economic Development Corporation, a technical assistance and planning consultancy to small business clusters and manufacturers.      

He has been active in many local, state and national organizations, including the National Development Council, the Community Capital Fund, and the Coastal Fairfield County Consortium. He lives with his wife and son in the Georgetown section of Wilton.

Mr. Himes’ endorsement comes on the heels of recent endorsements by Fairfield County’s teachers, mental health professionals, and first responders. For a video version of the endorsement from Congressman Himes, visit youtu.be/O--darxaXPM.