The three candidates for state representative in the 16th District squared off in the first portion of Patch's Voice of the Voter Debate at Eno Memorial Hall Wednesday night.
Republican-endorsed Charity Folk, Democratic candidate John Hampton and Robert Kalechman, a registered Republican, are seeking the seat. Three-term Democrat Linda Schofield is not seeking re-election.
In the debate, which will be shown on Simsbury Public television later this week, Folk and Hampton touted their experience while Kalechman highlighted some of his views and spent considerable time questioning the statements of the other candidates, Hampton in particular.
Hampton, in his fifth term as a selectmen, touted his government experience, said he worked for issues like senior citizen tax relief and the environment and called himself a fiscally conservative Democrat.
“I believe I am the right person to carry on Linda’ Schofield’s excellent record,” he said. “You know where I stand on the issues because I’ve been there for Simsbury and I’ll be there for Simsbury at the state capital.”
Hampton acknowledged the next two years will be a challenge for the state but said Schofield was effective during her first year in office and felt he could be as well, especially since he has worked on projects at the state level.
"I understand the legislative process," Hampton said.
Folk emphasized her position as a mother, resident, part of a family that lives within their means and 20-year executive director of the Simsbury Chamber of Commerce. At the chamber, she has overseen growth, worked with state and local officials and seen small businesses struggle, Folk said.
“A year ago I made my mind up to run for office because I was mad and upset on how the sate was being run,” she said. “Our fiscal house is still not in order.”
Folk said she was “proud to live in a country where we can agree to disagree" but felt that attitude is absent from Hartford.
“We deserve better and there needs to be a culture change,” she said.
Kalechman spent much of the evening stating that the voice of the people is being ignored in Hartford.
He objected to the presence of Sean Askham, chairman of the Republican Town Committee, Jeff Tindall, chairman of the Democratic Town Committee, as moderators alongside Simsbury Patch editor Jeff Brush.
Kalechman had the harshest words for Democrats but he said representatives of both major parties get little done unless the party caucus and bosses put it on their agenda.
Several times he pointed out that there are more unaffiliated voters in Simsbury than Democrats or Republicans individually.
“The unaffiliated have no representation," he said.
He also said nothing has changed under Gov. Dannel Malloy and said if anything the debt has grown worse despite many new taxes. He said teachers and state employees are being unfairly targeted.
“They’re moving the chairs around on the Titanic and the Titanic is going down,” Kalechman said.
Patch readers selected the debate questions. Each candidate was given one minute to answer the questions as well as a second 30-second chance to rebut another's remarks or add their own. Some audience members grumbled in their seats when Kalechman went over the allotted time on several occasions.
Following are those questions and to hear the answers in full, stay tuned for to see exactly when Simsbury Community Television will carry the debate.
- To what extent does a newly elected State Rep impact decisions at the state Legislature?
- Experience: As a new member of the legislature how would you shepherd a bill representing your constituents through both houses of the legislature and on to the Governor’s desk?
- Party or People: In what way will you separate yourself from the standard issues held by your party designation? Or do you see yourself as 100 percent party aligned?
- Voting: Assuming that you have reviewed votes made by Linda Schofield in the past year, with what, if any, might you have voted differently? — Or are you very pleased with her voting record, including a number of her non-votes?
- Are the State's fiscal problems the result of overspending or because of shortfalls in revenue?
- Education: Simsbury currently receives less ECS funds then we send to Hartford per year. In the current economic climate how do you plan on preserving and enhancing Simsbury’s share of the ECS pool?