The Newtown Republican and Democratic Town Committees both met May 22 and each unanimously endorsed their candidates for Newtown's 106 District.
At a Republican caucus at Edmond Town Hall, State Representative Mitch Bolinsky received the party's unequivocal endorsement for a second term. The 106th District includes most of Newtown and Sandy Hook. At the same time, local Democrats met and voiced unified support for Matt Cole, a 26-year-old who served as a key intern for former 106 Rep Chris Lyddy.
Currently serving his first term in the state House of Representatives, Rep Bolinsky is a member of the legislature’s Environment and Education Committees as well as the powerful, budget-writing Appropriations committee.
Additionally, Rep Bolinsky is a member of bipartisan coalition of legislators focused on issues affecting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. He is also active on senior issues, co-sponsoring legislation on supports and education for Alzheimer's disease and dementia, as well as several veterans' initiatives.
In his first term as state representative, Bolinsky has worked with bipartisan colleagues to pass landmark mental health legislation as well as important autism insurance protection for families.
He has worked to improve public safety including support and co-sponsorship of a bill creating a school safety grant program in 2013 and then following up in 2014 to ensure safe school grant awards included non-public schools.
He also stands in strong opposition to, and successfully opposed proposals in 2013 and 2014 to roll back "Drug-Free Zones" around schools and daycare centers, according to an RTC release.
Standing For Accountability
Rep Bolinsky has stood alongside House and Senate Republicans to consistently propose fully vetted budget alternatives and accountability by the state's government to operate more cost-efficiently, eliminate waste and fraud, and reduce tax pressures on Newtown and Connecticut families, businesses and municipalities.
On a local level, Rep Bolinsky has helped the town expedite and secure state grants and respectfully helped advocate for the transfer of state land.
"I am so incredibly proud to be a Newtowner and consider myself blessed to have the opportunity to serve my neighbors," said Rep Bolinsky. "The past two years have sped by like a blur. In hindsight, I really feel I've accomplished an awful lot with and for our community.
"As Newtown's representative, I had unprecedented recognition and access for a first-termer," he continued. "This term probably yielded twice the normal level of gained experience, positioning me for a strong return to Hartford."
Having worked to support former Rep Lyddy during his second year of elected service, Mr Cole told The Newtown Bee following his endorsement that he may have gained as much experience in the capitol arena in the short session than his incumbent challenger gained in his first term that encompassed two sessions.
"Being an intern, people may think I was able to learn much about the process at the capitol, but having been thrown into the process in a short session was like learning how to drink from a fire hose without getting soaked - you have to learn quickly," Mr Cole said.
Knowledge Of Processes
"In terms of knowledge of the process, there's no difference between me and the incumbent," Mr Cole continued. "As Representative Lyddy's intern, I was delegated a number of responsibilities. He gave me an opportunity to learn, and he also gave me an opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them."
Having chosen a career in social work, Mr Cole said he subscribes to a set of ethical standards that will suit him well as a state representative.
"I think my ethical standards are very much representative of the people in our community," he said. "Respecting everyone I come in contact with no matter what their position is on a certain issue, learning as much from those who disagree with me as from those who agree, and taking more of a world view of issues when necessary."
One of those issues is bringing a 26-year-old voice to Hartford.
"I want to jump in," he said. "You hear from those in Hartford, at state capitals across the country and in Washington that elected representatives are working on behalf of future generations, but there aren't a lot of voices [my age] representing those future generations in elected service."
If elected, Mr Cole sees himself getting involved in global issues like climate change, as well as issues as close to home as helping Newtown families shouldering huge education loan debt.
"When we focus on what needs to be done in terms of climate change, maybe Connecticut can be the state that draws up a blueprint that can be followed by the rest of the country," Mr Cole said. "And certainly college affordability is a challenge for several generations."
He said the cost of higher education in the state is skyrocketing, putting added financial pressures on parents helping their children foot the bill for college, recently graduated students who are struggling with the debt, and future parents saving for a college education for young children.
Education Cost Challenges
"The cost of education in the state keeps going up, but incomes aren't increasing to keep up," Mr Cole said. "I want to look at the reasons why state colleges and universities keep raising prices every year.
"Newly graduated students with $30,000 or more in college load debt are also part of the group facing the highest unemployment in Connecticut. That means they don't have disposable income to spend on a car, or a home," he added. "Not every idea will work, but we have to have these discussions or we'll never begin solving the problems.
"The next couple of years need to be about jobs and getting Connecticut's economy turned around. We have to keep working on education, safe schools and communities but we also have to curb state spending and borrowing."
Rep Bolinsky acknowledged that lawmakers cannot fix everything overnight.
"But it's time to start," he said. "Let's chip away at, roll back and eliminate multiple-layers of taxation and business-killing over-regulation. It's time to bring jobs and innovation back to Connecticut and, in the process, again be an enviable place to live, raise a family, get educated and start or be employed in a good career with a progressive, growing Connecticut company."
Rep Bolinsky said while he is a member of the minority party in Hartford, he has been able to do a lot of good for the community as well as individual constituents.
"Citizens typically don't have access to state commissioners and department heads, but when a Newtown constituent is facing a particular challenge, whether the issue is large or small, my contacts with these state leaders can get them a fair shake," Rep Bolinsky said. "I've only been in Hartford for one term, but I have been serving Newtown for more than a decade in other capacities. I'm a person who believes strongly in community service, but I'm also a homeowner here, and a taxpayer, so I'm struggling like all our neighbors when it comes to things like the economy."