BETHEL Candidates for District 2 at odds
BETHEL — The candidates for District 2 clash on gun laws and how to fix Connecticut’s economy and pay for transportation projects.
The state House race is a rematch of the 2016 election, when Republican Will Duff narrowly beat Democrat Allie-Brennan for the seat.
Both are Bethel residents who are active in the community.
The candidates are divided on the state’s ban of bump stocks, devices that allow guns to fire like an automatic weapon.
Duff said he voted against the bill, which passed in the spring, because of concerns from hunters. He said the law was too “general,” noting that a carpenter could be prevented from using a device to speed up his nail gun.
“All it’s going to do is take legal gun owners and make them felons,” he said.
Allie-Brennan said this is a sign Duff is out-of-touch with his constituents forever reeling from the Sandy Hook tragedy.
“People want someone who is going to defend families and make sure that they’re being protected, that their kids can go to school and they feel comfortable knowing that what happened in a town in the district is not going to happen again,” Allie-Brennan said.
Still, both agreed providing better mental health care to students and other residents could also prevent gun violence.
The two also had different plans on how to close the state’s budget gap.
Duff argued the state needed to renegotiate the contract with its union employees and bring businesses and people back to the state.
“Growing the economy is what we should focus on,” he said.
He also said the state could save money by eliminating rules requiring judicial marshals to obtain a commercial driver’s license on the state’s dime to transport prisoners.
Meanwhile, Allie-Brennan said the state could cut spending by reducing the budget for prisons because crime and the prison population are decreasing.
Measures like off-track betting could also bring in new revenue, he said.
Allie-Brennan, who works for Pastore & Dailey, a financial services law firm in Stamford, where he processes grants and loans for small businesses, said these companies also need some tax relief.
“I’ve seen working with small businesses how burdensome Connecticut is to small businesses,” he said. “Having some tax cuts for small businesses opening up and allowing them to access capital is a great way to start the economy.”
The candidates agreed it is critical to invest in transportation, especially in Fairfield County, where the state has threatened to cut services on the Danbury rail line.
Duff described northern Fairfield County as the economic “bright spot” in the state, arguing reducing these services would be an affront to local residents.
“You’re really putting a huge roadblock and obstacle to growth in Fairfield County,” he said. “If you want to see Fairfield County grow, you have to invest in Fairfield County.”
Allie-Brennan said making the rail service more convenient for local residents would cut down on traffic and help towns like Bethel, which is trying to attract more people to the community by revitalizing the area near the train station.
“If Bethel wants to invest in transit oriented development, what is the purpose if the train isn’t there?” he said, adding the Danbury rail line should be electrified.
Allie-Brennan supports creating a “lock box” of revenue that can only be used for transportation. Duff said the legislature would ignore the lock.
He said the state shouldn’t have a problem paying for transportation, noting the state Bond Commission approved millions for Aer Lingus and other projects.
“We have so much money going up to Hartford, there’s no reason we can’t pay for it,” he said.
Duff opposed tolls, but Allie-Brennan said he would be fine with tolls on trucks, depending on the result of the industry’s suit against Rhode Island for that policy.
“They do the most damage to our roads, why not put a toll for them?” Allie-Brennan said.
Duff sits on the Bethel Board of Assessment Appeals and previously served on the boards of selectmen and education, among other town positions. He is in his first term as state representative of the district that covers Bethel, Danbury, Newtown and Redding.
Allie-Brennan is the vice chairman of the Bethel Democratic Town Committee and vice president of the HERO Project, a local organization that raises awareness for the opioid epidemic. He also is a board member on the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters and the Triangle Community Center, which supports LGBTQ people.