Feb 18, 2014
10:11 AM
Connecticut Politics

Republican Candidates Take on Several Issues in First GOP Debate

Republican Candidates Take on Several Issues in First GOP Debate

Melanie Stengel

For two hours, four of the six Republican candidates for governor took up over two dozen issues and topics facing the state of Connecticut. Here are some notes on where each candidate stood on some of the more controversial and timely issues in the state.


Freedom of Information (FOI) RECOMMENDATIONS:

State Sen. John McKinney said he supports some recommendations by the task force, but disagrees with other parts of the legislation. “There is no public need to see the photos of children who have been murdered,” he said. However, he believes transcripts of 911 tapes are okay to be released.

State Sen. Toni Boucher, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and Joe Visconti don’t believe there should be further restrictions. Boughton and Visconti believe the current administration is already doing enough to hide things from the public.


EDUCATION/Common Core/Universal Pre-K:

Boughton says he has concerns about linking teacher evaluations and standardized testing to measure learning.

“The measure of learning is not always on a standardized test, it’s more about building the whole student…we’re losing that in education,” he said. On the issue of universal pre-K, Boughton supports creating additional spots for students who may need it, but doesn’t believe the state should become a babysitter. He stressed that the state can’t add more unfunded mandates to municipalities if they mandate universal pre-k.

McKinney has called for the resignation of the state’s education commsioner Stephan Pryor over concerns about the state’s handling/lack of input from teachers and parents on implementing the new teacher evaluations. He supports the idea proposed by Malloy to increase slots and funding to give parents the option, but would not support making it mandatory for all towns and cities to offer a program and make all families send their children to the public education pre-k.

Toni Boucher said more decisions should be left up to the schools themselves and the state should focus on failing schools rather than the same approach for each one. She said the state needs to focus on the “backbone of education,” which is literacy. One way to bring up literacy in students would be to consider a 200-day school year or a 7-day school day.

Visconti is against the cookie-cutter common core and said the state should let teachers teach. He refers to “education cartels” who control and lobby the state and government into standards that won’t work.



Boughton said the bill was “obscene” in that it “impinged on law-abiding folks out there, and we ignored the most important thing we can face . . . the mental health crisis in this country.” Boughton also criticized the administration for spending more to give money to businesses to stay or relocate in Connecticut than to schools for safety and security.

McKinney and Boucher both voted for the bill. McKinney said as a representative of Newtown, he did what was necessary to work with Democrats on what went into the bill. He said he did not regret his vote at all.

Boucher said people in her district overwhelmingly supported the bill, but she had serious concerns about its lack of help for mental health crises.

Visconti is vehemently against the bill and at another time, said he would not support additional funding to the state police if it went to allowing police to confiscate or track more guns. He said the bill was a knee-jerk reaction.



Boucher, McKinney and Viscnonti were all against decriminalizing or changing laws to permit marijuana use. Boughton said he wants to see how things play out in Colorado.



Boughton, who has been chastised for some of his positions on immigration, said the current system for immigration does not work. He supports changes to the process but does not believe the country should encourage people to break the law. Boughton said detectives were trained to apprehend people involved in serious crimes in Danbury, and mentioned one individual who was in the country illegally, taking flying lessons, and others who had committed various levels of crimes. “We’re not afraid to take advantage of programs that maybe seem controversial but at the end of the day might be for the betterment of the public safety of all of our residents.”

Visconti said the trades and businesses are affected by the issue and they need to look at people and workers here first.

McKinney answered a question about the issue by first poining out that the voters of Danbury re-elected Boughton, and said he and voters supported Boughton’s stance on the issue apparently. “If we don’t get national immigration reform we’re going to end up with the Democrats in Connecticut continuing to do what they’ve been doing,” he said, such as New Haven creating a “sanctuary city,” Malloy giving out licenses to people who are “not eligible” and the Secretary of State eventually allowing online voter registration

Boucher, an immigrant from Italy, said she supports immigration reform to keep the laws in place, but to make it a process where it’s more practical. She said the process is difficult, which is why many people will skip it, but that there are necessary elements to it such as background checks. She supports changes at the national level for immigration.



Each candidate was vehemently against the New Britain-Hartford busway and also unanimous on their displeasure with the current state of affairs with Metro-North railroad. Each suggested the state look at alternative options to their contract with Metro North, stressing that the governor needs to be a “leader” and have serious conversations with Metro-North leadership about what is needed.


Republican Candidates Take on Several Issues in First GOP Debate

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