PLANTSVILLE-Democratic and unaffiliated candidates competing to be the next governor of Connecticut spoke about the need to invest in transportation and infrastructure Friday morning at the Aqua Turf Club.
“Transportation is like the weather, it affects everybody,” Guy Smith, a Greenwich resident and businessman, said.
“If we don’t put transportation first, no CEO is going to build and invest here because the roads are unsafe.”
The event was part of a Transportation Forum hosted by the Connecticut Construction Industries Association. Last month the group held the same Transportation Forum for Republican candidates.
More than 300 people from union workers to business leaders listened as each candidate stood in front of the podium to discuss what they think needs to be done to improve the state.
Only those that filed candidate committees were invited to speak, which included: Sean Connolly, Joe Ganim, Oz Griebel, Ned Lamont, Guy Smith, Mark Stewart, Micah Welintukonis, Lee Whitnum and Jacey Wyatt.
“I sped up as fast as I could today at 55 mph to get here early to talk to people,” Joe Ganim, who is the mayor of Bridgeport and a convicted felon, joked.
Earlier this month Ganim was in a car that was stopped by a Connecticut state trooper for traveling 100 mph on I-84 after filing papers to join the governor’s race.
Ganim admitted he is an imperfect human being and an imperfect candidate, but said he can be the change that Connecticut desperately needs.
During the morning and afternoon commute, Ganim said people cannot get anywhere at a reasonable time. Democratic candidate Sean Connolly shared the same thoughts.
“Has anyone been stuck on 95 or 84 before? I have,” Connolly said
Connolly has little political experience, instead coming from a military background as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and former commissioner of the state Department of Veterans Affairs.
He contributes three things as his driving force to be governor. First, his love for Connecticut; he grew up in East Hartford, but left the state for a period of time. He moved back with his wife and two sons and now lives in Hebron. Second, he wants his sons’ generation and others to come to be able to have the same opportunity as he and generations had before him. Three, he said he knows with the “right leadership and collaboration” that the state’s crisis can be fixed.
He wants to bring in tolls and reduce the gas tax so more people from other states will stop in Connecticut rather than pass through. That paired with a “lock box” – a fund to be only used infrastructure and transportation – he said will be a critical piece to improving the state’s economy.
Other candidates such as Oz Griebel and Ned Lamont agree with the need for a lock box.
Lamont, a professor of political science and philosophy at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, said his top priority starting from day one, if elected, will be to get electronic tolls. This statement received applause from all those in attendance.
“It’s going to be tough. It’s going to take time. No more treating Connecticut as a pass through state,” he said.
He added that while improving infrastructure throughout the state is a must, as governor he wants to also keep in mind the environmental impacts to ensure the state’s heritage stays intact.
In contrast, Democratic candidate Mark Stewart said environmentalists are anti-capitalists and progressives are ruining the state.
“I am a Democrat, but I’m not a liberal so some of you conservatives might like me,” Stewart said. Later in his speech he said he’s a “libertarian at heart.”
Although a Democrat, Jacey Wyatt said she voted for Donald Trump in the presidential election. She used her platform to discuss the need to focus on attracting all types of voters to work together, rather than divide.
“We are in a crossroads; we can finally change and do this right. (It’s a time) where we can work together,” she said.