MILFORD — For 14 years the 14th District State Senate seat has been a Democratic stronghold with Gayle Slossberg holding it tight.
But this year Slossberg chose not to run for an eighth term.
And J.R. Romano, the state Republican chairman, would like nothing more than to paint that blue seat red.
“This is one of two open seats,” said Romano adding that the one vacated by Ted Kennedy Jr. in the 12th which includes Branford, North Branford and Madison. “We’ve had the 14th before. There’s no reason why we can’t retake it.”
But first the 9,60 Republican households have to decide on their candidate. Will it be Anthony Giannattasio, a seven-term Milford alderman and owner of the Milford Barrel Co. in New Haven, who is the party-endorsed candidate. Or will it be Pam Staneski, a former Milford alderwoman and board of education member who has spent the past four years in Hartford as the State Representative from the 119th.
The winner will take on James Maroney, a former Democratic State Representative in the 119th. He has won and lost in battles with Staneski..
“It’s a very important race for us,” Romano said. “Going into 2018, if the Democrats had the majority in the state senate we would have tolls and tax increases. But because there was an 18-18 deadlock, we were able to stop that. Now, we have the ability to be in the majority in the Senate, win the Governor’s race and take this state in a more fiscally sound direction.
The 14th Senate district covers all of Milford and Orange and parts of Woodbridge and West Haven. Staneski said there are roughly 9,600 households in those municipalities that have a Republican registered voter.
On Thursday night two dozen people were making calls on Staneski’s behalf at her Boston Post Road headquarters just across the street from Shop Rite.
She said the district is “very diverse” noting that Milford, Orange and Woodbridge are “fairly well-run” while West Haven faces possible state takeover.
“West Haven needs somebody who will be their voice in Hartford as they move forward to solvency making sure they’re putting in the right policies at the local level...advocating for the city on their needs...and if they need legislation, someone who can write the legislation and make sure there are no loopholes the state can come back on,” she said.
West Haven also was the deciding factor in giving Giannattasio the party endorsement when their delegates voted in block giving him a 13-12 win..
“I have a lot of support in West Haven,” said Giannattasio, as he was working in his Bridgeport Avenue headquarters in Devon. “West Haven has been ignored by this district for too long. I has a beautiful shoreline and a great business district on Campbell Avenue. Why shouldn’t it prosper the way Milford has.”
Both candidates tout the party line—lower taxes, no tolls, less regulations claiming this adds up to new businesses and more jobs.
“We’re facing a $4-6 billion deficit, pension liabilities that have to be addressed and people with needs that have to be met without having communities get whacked,” Staneski said. “I believe that my experience as a two-term State Representative for the 119th has provided me the insight to what it takes from Day one to represent the 14th Senate district.”
Giannattasio claims his life growing up in the family business—Milford Barrel—and watching his mother succeed with her Visions Hair Salon in Milford—make him the better candidate for helping the business community.
“ I know the challenges of having to make a payroll each week as well as having to deal with burdensome regulations that are hurting our businesses and holding our economy hostage,” he said.
He chides Staneski for voting in favor of allowing undocumented non-citizen students to apply for financial aid from state colleges. The measure passed by a 91-59 vote.
But Staneski said the vote on that measure was delayed for two years so certain requirements could be put in place.
“This is money the (state) universities and colleges set aside from tuition payments,” she said. “We put restrictions on that pool.”
She said the applicant has to be a Connecticut high school graduate, can’t have a felony conviction, has to qualify under DACA and must have applied for citizenship.
Giannattasio countered that State Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby and Charles Ferraro R-West Haven, voted against the bill. He said that shows Staneski’s “lack of understanding and total disregard for the current district she was elected to represent.”
Despite his cliam Klarides endorsed Staneski in this state senate race.
“I look at this as my full time job,” said Staneski, a former substitute teacher. “I tell people if you like what I’m doing thank (former Milford Mayor) Jim Richetelli (who convinced her to run for the board of education seat). If you don’t like what I’m doing blame Jim Richetelli. He’s my second favorite bald headed man in Milford.”