NEWINGTON – Will State Rep. Gary Byron and his democratic opponent for the 27th House District seat Gary Turco have a public debate on the issues before the Nov. 6 election?
Timing, format, preparation and campaign preferences are all factors in the answer to this question, which both candidates are still discussing.
After Turco’s endorsement by the Newington Democratic Town Committee over the summer, Chairman John Kelly reached out to the other party to propose a series of three one-on-one debates, open to the public.
“There are numerous differences in our viewpoints on issues directly affecting the daily lives of Newington residents, and the voters need to know our positions so they can make an informed decision,” Turco said.
Byron and Campaign Manager Mark Pappa have yet to offer a divisive answer.
“We’re still deciding what we want to do,” Pappa said this week. “We’ve got to run our campaign the way we see is best.”
Turco is eager to weigh his plans on tackling the economy, education and healthcare with Byron, who has represented the town at the State Capitol since 2014, when longtime representative Sandy Nafis retired.
“Name the place, name the format and we’ll be there,” he added. “This is something that is done in election years from the president on down. I’ve talked to other candidates and they’re having debates with their opponents – no issues, no controversies.”
Turco was a policy analyst for the State of CT for 10 years before travelling the world to do educational outreach. After returning to buy a home in Newington he’s worked in business development. Economic development is a major priority of his campaign platform, with tax reform, affordable healthcare and fighting for the middle class all priorities.
Byron, too, has pledged his commitment to strengthening the state’s small business sector and the middle class. Still, the two are different.
“My opponent is very, very far left and I’m a moderate republican,” Byron said.
Over his first two terms he helped establish a state task force to combat hoarding, strengthened penalties against animal abusers and continues to lead an advisory board for small business owners. As a member of Newington’s legislative contingent along with Sen. Paul Doyle and fellow State Reps. Tony Guerrera and Paul Doyle, Byron helped secure grants to clean up the diesel fuel spill and restore the town’s education funding. The group also worked to secure land on Cedar Mountain for town preservation.
Two years ago when then democratic candidate Josh Shulman asked Byron for a debate, it did not happen. Republicans said the request came too late in the season. They asked Newington’s other General Assembly candidates to be included in the event and schedule conflicts arose.
The party claims a debate ahead of the 2018 election is still a possibility, but details like format and timing still need to be finalized.
“I think something will happen in some form, where the candidates will have an opportunity to express their views,” Pappa said.
He went on to add that Byron’s way of reaching out to voters is personal.
“Gary will probably do six- or seven-thousand doors. He really covers a lot of ground. He’s vigilant about getting out there and bringing his message directly to the people and listening to what they have to say. That’s more of our preference on running the campaign.”
Turco is also campaigning door-to-door, and called the opposition’s treatment of the debate issue “stall tactics.”
“No is a perfectly fine answer, but that’s not what they’re saying,” Kelly said. “They’re just playing down the clock.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.