AP NEWS

Retail politics

June 11, 2018

GREENWICH — Monday morning on Greenwich Avenue wasn’t just for shopping. Retail politics was on the agenda as well.

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th, gave his “formal and full-throated endorsement” to Democratic state Senate candidate Alexandra Bergstein outside Restoration Hardware, then the two stopped in at nearby shops to talk to owners and employees.

Himes said he has watched Bergstein, who is making her first run for political office, with “great admiration” as she has advocated for everything from women’s parity in the workplace to healthy playing fields for kids in Greenwich.

“I think she is really a tremendous, tremendous candidate and will be a breath of fresh air in Hartford,” Himes said. “Hartford can probably use more people who don’t necessarily come from a political background and can bring a more pragmatic, even business-like frame of mind to our politics.”

In her prepared remarks, Bergstein spoke about her eagerness to improve the infrastructure, advocating again for tolls on Connecticut’s highways. The $1 billion per year raised in new revenue could be put in a lockbox for transportation problems, she said. She also called for a restructuring of the state’s pension system to set “fair and feasible terms” for retirees while also getting the state out from under mounting debt.

Bergstein also called for lowering income tax rates and eliminating the estate tax.

Bergstein is running against incumbent Republican L. Scott Frantz, a Republican seeking a sixth term for the 36th Senate District, which also covers portions of Stamford and New Canaan.

Bergstein said she had toured Stamford recently to check out its economic development successes.

“The biggest issue Connecticut faces right now is its fiscal health,” Bergstein said. “Politics and partisanship have been holding us back, and we need the best ideas to move forward — and we need to move quickly.”

Economic prosperity cannot be judged by the stock market, she said: It must be gauged by talking to local business owners.

“We have to ask ourselves what can we be doing better?” Bergstein said. “Greenwich can actually learn a thing or two from our neighbor in Stamford. They have transformed their downtown, and they are now booming.”

Frantz, who has long championed economic development, said Monday that he has been fighting for years to stop Democratic initiatives that harm businesses at all levels through higher income taxes and sales taxes and more regulations.

“The terrific news is that we now have in place a bipartisan budget that does not raise taxes, all due to the tie in seats in the State Senate,” Frantz said. “In fact, after several years of trying, I, along with the (Greenwich) delegation, were able to reduce the boat tax by as much as 42 percent. The marine trades and retail industries will once again be able to thrive with ultimately no cost to the state after years of shrinkage and layoffs.”

Bergstein and Himes visited three businesses in Greenwich’s central business district. Lisa Lori, who runs Perfect Provenance and Café 47, talked about town regulations that have been in place since the 1930s that keep her from getting a liquor license.

“They’re trying to alleviate a lot of these things, but it really stands in our way,” Lori said of the rules about proximity to other restaurants.

She and the employees at Diane’s Books also lamented the competition from online retailers such as Amazon. Others pointed out parking problems on the Avenue, which was of particular concern to Lynne Jenkins, owner of Lennens.

“I have lost a lot of customers just because of meters,” Jenkins said. “They don’t want to come in to look for what they need for their house and worry about a $25 ticket. They’ll go shopping in other towns.”

Bergstein, who is running as a Democrat, has made a point of saying her campaign is about “nonpartisan solutions for economic growth and social progress.” In making his endorsement, Himes criticized the tone of Republicans in Hartford.

“It’s really been discouraging to see Connecticut slide in the direction of Washington, D.C., where Republicans are silent in the face of Donald Trump’s outrageous behavior and outrageous statements,” Himes said.

Frantz rejected that assessment, calling it “out of touch” and “clearly part of a false narrative being promoted at the national level.”

“There are hardly any Trump fans in the General Assembly, and talk of there being obstructionist behavior is just plain fabricated,” Frantz said. “In the Senate, I can tell you that there is a tremendous amount of pride we all take for our bipartisan work together, especially on budgetary and other critical issues.”

The Monday event was focused on the Bergstein campaign, but Himes is also on the November ballot, facing a challenge for his House seat from fellow Greenwich resident, Republican Harry Arora.

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com

AP RADIO
Update hourly