32nd District candidates agree on the issues, but not the solutions

The candidates running to represent state Senate District 32 agree Connecticut isn’t doing enough to keep its young people, seniors and businesses from moving to neighboring states.

Incumbent Sen. Eric Berthel, a Republican, and first-time Democratic challenger Cathy De Carli even see eye to eye on some of the ways to change that — just not who should be sent to Hartford to do so.

The two candidates — who would represent 10 towns stretching between the Danbury area and Waterbury — attributed the exodus, for small businesses at least, to too much regulatory burden. De Carli said business owners have told her they are frustrated by the amount of time it takes to go through these regulatory processes.

“We need to clean up those cumbersome regulations — not getting rid of regulation — but you shouldn’t be spending all your time working on government paperwork,” De Carli said.

Berthel gave the example of the financial strain of obtaining multiple permits for a single business. A fish market in his district spends $4,000 on separate seafood, lobster tank, grocery and produce permits before it can open each year, he said.

The two candidates did differ on ideas for keeping young people in the state after they graduate from college, though they agreed most leave because of financial reasons or difficulty finding a job.

De Carli, who said reducing student loan debt should be a focus, suggested offering to pay for a portion of a student’s education if they commit to staying in Connecticut after graduation.

Berthel said the focus should be on cutting taxes so young people can afford to live in the state and building infrastructure, such as mass transit systems, so Connecticut cities are a place they want to live.

“You look at cities like Boston and New York — these cities have responded to what young people are looking for today,” he said. “We have not adapted to that change like our neighboring states have.”

Both candidates proposed a focus on preparing students for manufacturing, technical or skilled labor jobs — a fitting topic given that their district encompasses both an existing agriscience and technology school in Woodbury and the Region 12 district, which plans to build an agriscience academy this year.

They also agreed that Connecticut is in danger of losing its seniors to other states because of the burden of taxes on their pensions and Social Security. Berthel said he has introduced bills to get rid of these taxes and De Carli agreed she most likely would also support doing so.

In making the case for why they should be the one to take on these issues, De Carli touted her diverse work background, while Berthel pointed to his experience in the Legislature.

De Carli, who lives in Southbury, currently works in the marketing department for Vision Engineering. But, she said she has worked in a variety of other jobs, including as a realtor and in computer science.

“I’m not a career politician. I’ve had a myriad of different jobs in pretty much every industry out there,” she said. “I’m pretty much as well-rounded as you can get. (I can bring) a different perspective and the ability to get along with various personality types and working habits.”

Berthel, who first won the seat in a special election in February 2017, said his experience of listening to constituents and working toward bipartisan initiatives should show he’s qualified to represent all 100,000 people in the district.

Before he was in the Senate, Berthel served as a state representative for three years. He has held various Board of Education positions in Oakville and works as the associate director of corporate relationships at Post University.

“As a Republican, I don’t just represent Republicans in the 10 towns of District 32, I represent everyone, and I’ve shown more than ample evidence of doing that,” he said. “It’s something I take with a great amount of seriousness and a great sense of pride and humility.”