Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Independents making strides against the Party Candidates

Bacchiochi, Graziani face minor-party, independent candidates
As Election Day nears, similar races are shaping up in the 52nd House District, which encompasses Somers, Stafford, and Union, and the 57th House District, consisting of East Windsor and Ellington.

In both districts, a popular incumbent is facing a relatively unknown challenger, who lacks a major-party endorsement.


In the 52nd District, Republican Rep. Penny Bacchiochi is running for a third two-year term against Christian Center Party candidate John M. Traceski.

In the 57th District, Democratic Rep. Ted C. Graziani is running for a fifth term against independent candidate Christopher Burke Kennedy.

Bacchiochi boasts of funds

In the 52nd District, Bacchiochi is stressing her achievements in bringing state funds to the three towns of the district for a variety of projects.

"Each time, I like the job more," Bacchiochi says of the two terms she has served in the House.

"I become more effective," she adds.

She cites her success in securing a $250,000 grant to improve recreational facilities in Stafford. And she says she worked with state Sen. John A. Kissel, R-Enfield, to obtain a $48,000 grant to help complete a community playground in Somers.

She also says she obtained a $64,000 grant for a transfer station in Union.

Bacchiochi serves on the Select Committee on Housing, the Public Safety and Security Committee, and the Internship Committee, of which she is chairwoman.

"I haven't reached my peak legislatively," she says.

Bacchiochi says she wants to continue to work on issues such as affordable housing for seniors, emergency management plans, and education.

Bacchiochi, 45, graduated from the University of Connecticut with a degree in public relations. She owns a Stafford-based property management company, Louis Management, and lives in Somers with her sons Nicholas, 15, and Anthony, 7.

Traceski, a Somers resident, couldn't be reached for comment regarding the election. This is the second time he has run for the seat.

In November 2004, Bacchiochi defeated Democrat David Mordasky, 7,381 to 3,517, and Traceski garnered only 123 votes.

Kennedy seeks 'accountability'

In the 57th District, Kennedy says he is concerned with a "litany of issues," the most important being "accountability" - in particular, judicial accountability.

"My biggest issue is with the judiciary," Kennedy says, claiming that judges work in secrecy and legislators keep voting bad judges back onto the bench.

Kennedy, 39, has been an advocate for divorced fathers and last year urged the state legislature to adopt a bill that would have created a presumption that parenting responsibilities should be divided equally between divorcing parents.

Taxes are also on Kennedy's agenda, along with education, veteran's rights, and health-care issues.

"I'm tired of paying taxes and getting the same services for it," Kennedy says.

Although Kennedy has never held elected office, he cites his active role in the community through organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the Boy Scouts.

Kennedy, who petitioned to get on the ballot, is a UConn graduate and works at Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford as a senior mechanical engineer.

He has been a resident of Ellington for 16 years and has three children, Sean, 18, Kathleen 13, and Brenna, 10.

Graziani wants aid for service members

Graziani, 58, is completing his fourth two-year term in the House.

He is vice-chairman of the Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee. He is also on the Banks Committee and the Select Committee on Veterans Affairs.

"I would like to look into providing unemployment benefits for the men and women called to duty and leaving their families behind," Graziani says, referring to members of the armed forces.

According to Graziani, many service members already have served two tours of duty in Iraq and are on standby for 2007. Because military service is considered voluntary, they are denied unemployment benefits, he says.

Graziani also wants to focus on preventing another energy crisis like the one he says "blew a hole in the budget" of many school systems last year.

"We need to reserve funding for any type of energy shortfalls in the schools and the community," he says.

Graziani is also keen on looking into safety in schools in light of recent violent incidents nationwide.

Graziani works as a senior buyer and planner at Hamilton Sundstrand in Windsor Locks. He has been a resident of Ellington since 1965 and lives with his wife, Erin, and daughter, Miranda, 7.

History of conflict

There is some history between Kennedy and Graziani's older brother, Vernon Superior Court Judge Edward Graziani.

Kennedy has made headlines over the past few years as a result of his bitter legal battle with his ex-wife over custody of their three children after their divorce in May 2002.

Edward Graziani presided over one phase of the custody dispute, granting Kennedy's ex-wife sole custody of the couple's children in February 2003. The judge also held Kennedy in contempt of court.

The state Appellate Court later ruled that Edward Graziani erred in the contempt ruling. Kennedy then asked the state Judicial Review Council to discipline Graziani. The council's initial proceedings on complaints are secret, but it has taken no public disciplinary action against the judge.

In November 2004, Kennedy registered as a write-in candidate for 57th House seat, running against Ted Graziani and Working Families candidate Edward J. Zimnoch. Graziani defeated Zimnoch in that election by a vote of 7,219 to 719, and Kennedy received only four votes.

QUESTIONNAIRE

1) State government has helped to increase gasoline prices by 8 cents per gallon since July 2005 by twice increasing the petroleum products gross receipts tax. Given the high prices at the pump and a growing state budget surplus, should the tax increases scheduled in July 2007 and July 2008 be canceled?

BACCHIOCHI: I fully support Governor Rell's recent proposal to cap the gross receipts tax on petroleum products. I also support the elimination of zone pricing, at least for the next two years, as well as the termination of the utility tax surcharge for our Connecticut businesses. We should also support the establishment of an "energy aggregator" which would allow group purchasing power for hospitals, universities, and other nonprofit organizations.

TRACESKI: No response.

GRAZIANI: Yes, for at least the year of 2007 and then re-evaluated for 2008. The other option would be to "cap" the gross receipt tax, which would prevent any additional revenue from what the state projected to occur.

KENNEDY: I oppose the increase in state gas tax. Our economy needs low-cost fuel and alternate energy to thrive. This last fiscal year the state tax made $95 million, four times in excess of what was budgeted. In the past 10 years, state government increased 24 percent and our population decreased. The gas tax was intended for improving transportation. Instead the money is diverted to other funds. A $52 million highway drainage system that goes nowhere and $6 million to inspect it is absurd. The state needs to focus on accountability and decreasing its size and cost.

2) Last year, Connecticut executed its first prisoner in four decades. Should the state retain its capital punishment statute as written, or should it be repealed or modified?

BACCHIOCHI: Earlier this year, Michael Ross was executed - in the small town that I represent. I didn't sleep the night before the legislature voted on a moratorium to the death penalty; it was one of the hardest votes I think I will ever make. It was a life or death vote. There is no right answer, no acceptable choice. I studied the issue; I looked at the New Jersey legislature that approved a death penalty moratorium. I listened to the League of Women Voters, who asked for a moratorium. And I thought about the absolutely horrific crimes that were committed, and admitted to. I felt that I could not support the rights of Michael Ross to live, when so many had died at his hands.

TRACESKI: No response.

GRAZIANI: This question is highly controversial, and there are merits to both sides of the argument to keep, change, or remove this statute. I believe that the current law as written is fine. Remember that a defendant is judged by his or her peers, by jury.

KENNEDY: I used to believe in the death penalty until I saw the corruption in the judicial branch and the number of innocent people being prosecuted. I have seen estimates as high as 10 percent of the prison population are innocent. Like many fathers in divorce, I lost my children to an abusive judge, only to find my state representative was his brother and on the committee which appoints judges. Complaints to the Judicial Review Council are ignored and shredded. I have seen judges abuse children, lie, fabricate documents and tell prosecutors who they want arrested. Accountability for judges is a priority.

3) As part of a program of municipal property tax relief, would you support any changes to the state's binding arbitration laws to help cities and towns control labor costs?

BACCHIOCHI: Municipalities need property tax relief and a commitment from the state to live up to its promises for state aid. I have supported legislation that would greatly increase aid to our small towns. It is not the will of the current legislature to fairly distribute state aid. That said, I do not support additional changes to binding arbitration to reach the goal of additional funds for towns. Twenty-five years ago, binding arbitration was passed to insure a fair and balanced approach to solve problems. It is also used to keep our teachers and other essential staff from going on strike, an option that would cripple our educational systems and municipalities.

TRACESKI: No response.

GRAZIANI: Again, this is a highly controversial subject that has come before the General Assembly for debate several times. To find out what the impact of the state's current binding arbitration laws is, the Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee performed a study for Connecticut municipal and school employees in April 2005. The findings of the study were released in January 2006 with 14 recommendations to be considered. Overall, the program review committee found that binding arbitration is used relatively infrequently as a contract settlement method, and the committee also found no evidence that arbitration has driven up costs. I support the binding arbitration as it stands, but will consider the recommendations for the 2007 legislative session.

KENNEDY: Protecting a town's unique services and municipal and state workers' salary and benefits is paramount but cannot exceed the value of private-sector workers. Towns must ensure this compensation is balanced with the taxpayers' interests and falls in line with a town's financial ability, excluding rainy day funds. Municipal salaries are funded with property taxes, and towns need relief from forced increase. The decision-making process should be transparent, open to public scrutiny, and subject to a two-third majority with elected officials and accountability to the voters. Binding arbitration should be consistent at state and local levels.


©Journal Inquirer 2006

The above found here on the web.

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