U.S. SENATE Democratic primary: Susan Bysiewicz says she will defy expectations

A poll taken last month had her significantly behind heading into the Aug. 14 primary for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, but don't tell Susan Bysiewicz she doesn't have a chance.

After all, she says, she's proven the doubters wrong on multiple occasions.

"When I first ran for state representative in Middletown, I narrowly lost the party convention for the endorsement and I went out and knocked on 5,000 doors and won the primary by 73% of the vote and then the general election," the former secretary of the state said in an interview with Hersam Acorn Newspapers. "When I didn't win at the convention, people told me I didn't have a chance but I pushed forward and won. Then in 1998 I was running for secretary of the state and again I didn't win the convention and I wasn't the endorsed candidate. We didn't have any polls then of the race but if we had I'm sure I would have been 20 to 30 points behind, but I ran my primary and I won. I didn't know it was supposed to be impossible. I just ran and won."

A former state representative before her 12 years as secretary of the state, Ms. Bysiewicz said she is the best candidate for the Democrats in November. Polls have consistently shown her trailing U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy (D-5), who is the party's endorsed candidate, by double digits, but she said she has already won state office by large margins, something he hasn't done. She said as a known commodity throughout the state, her grass-roots campaign will lead to victory on Aug. 14.

In her interview, Ms. Bysiewicz laid out an ambitious agenda for what she would do if she wins the primary and then the November general election.

To improve the state of the economy, Ms. Bysiewicz said that you had to look at the housing market. The fact that the market hasn't truly bounced back is what's keeping the economy stagnant, she explained. To improve that she is calling for mortgage relief for middle class homeowners. She said that in Connecticut there are 100,000 people at risk of losing their homes because their mortgages are more than the value of their homes, and nationwide this balloons to 15 million.

She said that the "risky behavior" in the financial services industry that led to the financial collapse hasn't changed and that Congress isn't doing enough to stop it because they're "too cozy with Wall Street." As part of a reform plan, Ms. Bysiewicz is calling for the return of a "small" securities transactions tax that charged a fee when large volumes of securities are bought and sold. She estimated this would generate $150 billion, and that $120 billion of that could be used to provide principal reduction relief on mortgages, something she said would help homeowners. When asked if this program was unfair to people who do pay their mortgages on time, Ms. Bysiewicz said it was a chance to help out and not only improve the housing market but keep people from having to abandon their homes, which keeps neighborhoods thriving.

Investment in infrastructure, not just in Connecticut but throughout the nation, is something Ms. Bysiewicz said she supports. Calling it a "job creator" she pointed to the large-scale public works programs that President Franklin Roosevelt championed that helped bring the country out of the Great Depression. She said this is something that would need Republican support to go forward, and claimed her plan to create public-private partnerships with infrastructure banks would get support from both sides of the aisle because it would be a chance to get people to work through infrastructure projects while not increasing government spending.

This is just part of what Ms. Bysiewicz called her "accountability plan" to reform Congress and "make it be less partisan." This plan also includes ending political parties being able to redistrict to keep their party in control, and instead adopting a plan being used currently in California where citizen groups do the redistricting when necessary, which she feels will result in more moderate and less partisan districts.

She also calls for an end to earmarks to stop the influence of lobbyists in Washington, D.C., as well as banning contributions, gifts and bundling from lobbyists and extending the ban of former members of Congress and their senior staff members from going to work as lobbyists to five years.

"Right now I think it's the biggest corporations in America and the wealthiest people in our country who have the strongest voice in government because they're the ones who can afford to have lobbyists and government relations departments and it's the reason we have a tax code that's not fair," Ms. Bysiewicz said. "It goes right to the heart of what this primary is about. Who can best stand up for the middle class in Connecticut and in our country?"

In running down a list of her priorities, Ms. Bysiewicz said she is in favor of a quicker withdrawal from Afghanistan than President Barack Obama has called for, ending subsidies to oil and gas companies and agri-businesses, and ending the "Bush tax cuts" for the wealthiest Americans, something that is expected to be a contentious political issue when they come up for expiration at the end of the year.

This is where she said money will be found to allow for investment in infrastructure programs and renewable energy in the United States to boost the economy.

Ms. Bysiewicz said she rejected the idea that you have to be in the Senate for 20 years to make something happen. She said that even though she would be one voice out of 100 there, she would able to make an impact on the issues she is passionate about, using Senator Kirsten Gillebrand (D-N.Y.) as an example. Since being appointed to former Senator Hillary Clinton's seat in 2009, Ms. Gillebrand has made such an impact that her name is already being discussed in circles as a potential 2016 presidential candidate. Ms. Bysiewicz said this shows a relative newcomer to the U.S. Senate can get things done.

"I'm going to do what I have always done to get difficult things to happen and reach out to the other side of the aisle," Ms. Bysiewicz said.

Throughout the primary campaign, Ms. Bysiewicz has been aggressive in talking about what she feels is Mr. Murphy's too close ties to Wall Street. In her interview with Hersam Acorn, Ms. Bysiewicz touched on this, saying the contributions he's accepted would make it "very hard for Chris Murphy to stand up to Wall Street and stand up to corporate special interests."

The Murphy campaign disputed this interpretation and accused Ms. Bysiewicz of negative campaigning while pointing to the series of endorsements he's received from progressive groups and labor unions.

"Ms. Bysiewicz has been running misleading campaigns since the 1990s, so her hypocrisy comes as no surprise," said Murphy campaign spokeswoman Taylor Lavender. "The truth is that nobody in Connecticut is buying the attack because it's made up out of thin air. Chris has been fighting for Wall Street reform for years."