While Republicans will be heading to the polls next Tuesday to select their candidates for governor and other state offices, local Democrats in the state House of Representatives' 133rd District will cast ballots to select their nominee in the November election.
The Democrats' contest is between Selectman Cristin McCarthy Vahey, the party-endorsed candidate, and Registrar of Voters Matthew Waggner. The seat is held by Democrat Kim Fawcett, who has opted to run for the state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. John McKinney, of Fairfield, one of the candidates vying for the GOP nomination for governor.
The winner of the Democrats' legislative primary will face Carol Way, the GOP nomiee and Representative Town Meeting member, in November.
For Vahey, who served on the Representative Town Meeting prior to the Board of Selectmen, education funding, economic security and taxes, and a strong transportation infrastructure are the top issues.
"Parents and grandparents alike talk about the importance of maintaining a strong and rigorous public school system that will adequately prepare their children not only for the workforce, but to participate fully in society as well-rounded, healthy and engaged citizens," Vahey said. "Adequate funding of education programs at all levels is critical."
Vahey said keeping Fairfield affordable, growing small business and attracting employers, and providing jobs with living wages and benefits are priorities. "Fairfielders want government services that are efficient, yet support their needs," she said, and a strong transportation infrastructure not only supports job growth, but improves the quality of life for all residents -- seniors who no longer drive, and commuters who depend on highways and rail. Employers lose productivity and workers lose wages when our transportation system fails them. "
In four elections, Vahey, a social worker, said that she has gained voters' "overwhelming support." She cited her time as a deputy moderator and minority leader on the RTM, as well as working with officials in both political parties to address town issues, among her qualifications for the office. "It has required coming together to get the job done," she said.
"I bring many passions, opinions and ideas to Hartford, but I also know that a legislator needs to work together with others to effect change. I know how to listen, how to work with others, how to develop concrete, achievable solutions," Vahey said. "I believe in the people of Fairfield and know that together with them, as their representative in Hartford, we can make changes we need."
In 2010, she received the Democratic Town Committee's Denise Dougiello "Young Turk" award.
Vahey's opponent has served in the registrars' office for five years, and during that time, Waggner said he brought changes to the office, such as posting election results online in real time.
Waggner, however, also got caught up in controversy with his Republican counterpart there, Roger Autuori. During preparations for the last election, a dispute between the two escalated with Waggner accusing Autuori of assaulting him. Autuori was given accelerated rehabilitation by the courts, and town officials moved him to a separate office on the second floor of old Town Hall. Earlier this year, Autuori called police because Waggner was tearing down signs affixed to the wall by tape or glue, informing the public of Autuori's new location.
Waggner, who also received the DTC's "Young Turk" award in 2009, said he's running because he hears from voters every day about their frustration with unresponsive or stalled government.
The biggest problems he sees that "are within our reach to fix" include education funding, "restoring middle-class opportunity" and getting development policy under control, particularly as it concerns affordable housing and the state's 8-30g statute.
Waggner said he would end "the local war between seniors and students" by supporting a shift to a system where the state funds the largest requirements of school systems, allowing towns to reduce property taxes. Ending student debt at public universities "with pay-it-forward financing and implementing public-option retirement plans, so private-sector workers can have the same ability to retire that public employees do" would help restore the middle class, he said.
He said what makes him different from Vahey is what each views as leadership. "I'm someone who will work to make government function the way people expect it to, even when it means standing up to lobbyists and party leaders along the way," Waggner said. "I'm the only candidate who stood up to support ending taxpayer subsidies to huge chains like Wal-Mart, to ban fracking waste in Connecticut and to reverse the cuts made to our local school budget."
Waggner, a freelance graphic designer and small business owner, said the job of a state representative involves more than towing the party line and bringing grant money back home in return. "I think that our responsibility -- and our opportunity to effect change -- is much greater than that," he said. "I've met a lot of voters that appreciate political courage, and hope to be able to restore their confidence that we can make the big changes we need in this state."