Race for the 26th State Senate: Toni Boucher
Running for a sixth term in the state legislature’s 26th Senate District, Toni Boucher wants Connecticut to return to “a better place.”
Boucher, 68, a Republican from Wilton, is currently the Senate’s chief deputy majority leader, co-chair of both the Transportation and Education committees, and vice chair of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.
“I’m in leadership positions where I can do more things for the district, allowing me to be a stronger voice for our towns,” Boucher said in an interview with The Bulletin.
If elected to another term, she said her main goals are to help Connecticut recover economically, and address education issues and transportation funding.
“While going door-to-door during this campaign, I heard a lot of complaints about the economy. Job losses are severe and businesses are leaving the state. Seniors say they can’t afford to stay in Connecticut any longer and feel they are being forced out, and property owners say their home values have dropped as much as 40%,” she said.
At a recent coffee in Bethel, Boucher said she met a man whose daughter was a microbiology major at the University of Connecticut. He told her a company in Massachusetts contacted his daughter to offer her a job, but she didn’t accept it right away, hoping to find a job in Connecticut — but she couldn’t. “The state is putting all this money in UConn and we lose our talent and resources to another state. We need to keep these companies in Connecticut,” she said.
Boucher said she is working in a bipartisan manner to resolve the state’s growing deficit while holding the line on taxes and reducing government spending. “The state must recreate a positive tax environment where businesses can grow,” she said.
Boucher’s family emigrated from Italy when she was 5 and settled in Naugatuck. “When I started school I could not speak one word of English,” she said.
But educators in the Naugatuck school system provided her with compassion and support, which, she said, spurred her on to become a staunch advocate of public education.
Boucher furthered her education after graduating from high school, earning a B.S. from American University, an M.B.A., from the University of Connecticut and a B.A. from the University of South Dakota.
In 1983, Boucher and her husband Bud settled in Wilton where they raised their three children. “We chose Wilton because of its very strong education focus,” she said.
Boucher got involved in public service in 1986, first as a member of the Wilton Board of Education, and later serving on the Board of Selectmen. “I then realized that I could do more for education by serving in the state legislature, and I felt it was my duty to pay it forward,” she said. Before being elected to the state Senate’s 26th District, Boucher served 12 years as state representative of the 143rd District.
Boucher has supported a number of education initiatives in the state House, including legislation to promote early reading and preschool education programs for disadvantaged children. She also helped institute the Connecticut College Trust Fund to help parents save for their children’s college education.
As co-chair of the legislature’s Education Committee, she sponsored a bill that was passed this spring, requiring public school districts to include education about the Holocaust and genocides in their high school social studies curriculum. For that, she was honored by the Jewish Federation of Connecticut. She was also named a Children’s Champion by the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance.
Boucher said she plans to improve the state’s education funding formula which came under fire after Gov. Malloy threatened to cut or severely reduce education funding to a number of school districts during the last budget cycle. “He was looking at towns like Wilton and others with a good balance sheet and was asking them to pay for his mistakes, but we [the legislature] were able to say no,” she said.
Transportation is another important issue, she said. There are eight railroad stations in her district. As co-chair of the legislature’s Transportation Committee, Boucher is a strong advocate for mass transit and for upgrading the state’s transportation infrastructure.
She has led successful initiatives to improve all aspects of commuter rail service, and reduce traffic congestion.
She has opposed plans to build a Super 7 highway, and has supported efforts to widen the road, build a greenway, and increase access for bikes and pedestrians.
She has also opposed re-establishing tolls on Connecticut highways, calling them “a tax” on commuters, unless the gas tax is reduced.
As a member of both the Education and Transportation committees, Boucher said she can continue to do a lot for the district in these positions.
She believes she is a good representative of the 26th District because she is fiscally conservative while being socially progressive and moderate.
This year, the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters endorsed Boucher for being a champion for open space and land conservation, and spearheading the preservation of the Trout Brook Reservoir. The National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Connecticut Association of Realtors endorsed her for supporting business and the economy. She was also recognized by the Moms Demand Action group for voting in favor of the state’s post-Sandy Hook gun control bill. She also helped write the state’s same-sex marriage amendment in the Senate, after voting against “civil unions” which, she said, the gay community opposed.
“I’m pro-jobs, pro-taxpayers, pro-environment, pro-education, pro-women, pro-gay, and pro-gray. I really care about the community,” she said.
In addition to the Republican line on the Nov. 6 election ballot, Boucher was also endorsed by the Independent Party and her name will appear on that line as well.