Closely contested state House race is between incumbent and former state representative looking to return
BETHEL — One of the sharpest contrasts between Democratic incumbent state Rep. Raghib Allie-Brennan and Republican challenger Dan Carter lies in the police reform bill.
Allie-Brennan, who is serving his first term as the state representative for the second House district, supported the bill passed over the summer in the wake of nationwide protests following George Floyd’s death.
“Until everyone is treated the same under our system, we have work to do,” said the Bethel resident, adding the bill increases recruitment for minority officers and provides better training opportunities, among other benefits.
But Carter, who used to hold the office in the district that includes parts of Bethel, Danbury, Newtown and Redding, opposes the legislation.
“That was an awful, awful bill,” Carter said. “It makes us and police much less safe.”
Among other concerns, new restrictions on use of force could cause officers to “hesitate” when they need to act quickly, while the elimination of qualified immunity will increase lawsuits costs to municipalities, he said.
“I intend to do what my opponent didn’t do,” Carter said. “I’m going to work with the police and I’m going to go back there and keep the good parts of the bill.”
This includes additional training sessions for officers.
Allie-Brennan described his vote for the bill as one of his hardest. He said he attended protests after Floyd’s death and talked to district police chiefs and officers about the bill.
“I have to work on that relationship with the police again to rebuild it,” said Allie-Brennan, adding he has supported pay raises for officers.
Carter, a Bethel resident, held the seat for three terms from 2010 to 2016 before vacating the position to unsuccessfully challenge U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
He said he wants to return to the House to make the state more affordable.
“I bring all the experience of having been in the legislature before, being someone who worked with both sides across the aisle on many different things,” Carter said. “That experience is needed more than ever because of where we are.”
Carter supports making small cuts to various parts of the budget to avoid increasing expenses. Eliminating raises for state employees could be a way to reduce spending, he said.
Some of Allie-Brennan’s goals are to expand solar jobs and to attract young people to stay in the state by investing in transportation and businesses. He also wants to make health care affordable by creating a public option similar to the health insurance state employees receive.
“A lot of people are getting kicked off their plans during the pandemic,” he said. “Giving people the ability to buy into this public option will make it more accessible and affordable.”
Both agreed federal funding and state programs will be key to supporting residents and businesses struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.
“They (small businesses) really need funding and relief and access to loans,” said Allie-Brennan, adding residents have been supported by bills he voted for to increase the minimum wage and offer paid family leave.
Some landlords, for example, need support because they are at risk of losing their properties or own home due to the state’s ban on evictions, Carter said.
“We did the right thing by keeping people from being evicted, but I think we took away the impetus for landlords and tenants to negotiate,” he said.
Both candidates have problems with the state statute 8-30g, which has caused disdain in communities like Bethel because it allows developers to bypass local zoning laws if they promise to build a certain percentage of affordable housing.
But they differ on how to deal with it.
Allie-Brennan plans to re-introduce a bill, which he wrote with the help of Bethel’s town planner, to give municipalities a reprieve from the statute if they create an affordable housing plan, which Bethel has. That bill died due to the pandemic.
“It’s costly (to create affordable housing plans), so they should be rewarded for doing something that is costing them money,” Allie-Brennan said.
Carter envisions a program that better enables residents to own, rather than rent, affordable housing.
“This is a whole new concept, a whole new program,” he said. “It’s something Democrats and Republicans can work together on.”