Independent candidate joins race for open Senate seat
MIDDLEBURY - Middlebury genealogist Dan Lynch can name all 42 of the state senators that have served since the Civil War in the towns that now make up the 32nd District.
His research shows that the last Democrat was Charles Lyman of Washington - elected in 1891. Republicans have consecutively held the seat for more than a century, but Lynch notes that currently the largest block of voters - 44 percent - are, like him, unaffiliated.
Last month, Lynch - a Waterbury native who moved from Trumbull back to the area three years ago - and two volunteers promptly collected 628 signatures (502 were required) to get on the ballot as a petitioning candidate in the Feb. 28 special election.
After nine years, Rob Kane (R-Watertown) vacated the seat last month and became one of two state auditors of public accounts. The 10-town district stretches from Bethlehem to Oxford and includes such metro Danbury towns as Southbury, Washington, Roxbury and Bridgewater.
The two major party candidates - state Rep. Eric Berthel (R-Watertown) and Roxbury Democrat Greg Cava, a land development attorney who lost to Kane last November - have qualified for a $72,000 state Citizens Election Program grant.
“Candidly, I can’t fault them for taking money,” said Lynch - who is running on a budget of $1,000, the limit allowed for a candidate who doesn’t have a formal campaign organization with a treasurer.
“I’m trying to make a statement with my campaign,” said the marketing and technology consultant. “I want to do more with less. I would love to get more than 100 campaign posters for $55. But I would much rather see that [election grant] money spent on mental health and addiction services.”
Republicans and Democrats each hold 17 Senate seats, and the two special elections late this month could give one party a majority. The other race is in the 2nd District covering Bloomfield and part of Hartford for the seat that had been held by Democrat Eric Coleman.
Lynch, 54, has been testifying regularly before the General Assembly for a decade about mental health and addiction spending, genealogical issues and judicial reform.
“My candidacy is an extension of my legislative advocacy,” he said.
Lynch said when he’s not at the Legislative Office Building he frequently watches the public hearings on CTN, the public affairs channel, which “has expanded the openness of state government.”
Over recent weeks, he has met voters door to door, in diners, restaurants and at middle school basketball games.
Lynch said the top issue has been efforts to “chip away” at the Second Amendment.
“People - and this is an instance where you can’t tell a book by its cover, because older women have mentioned it - are afraid that somehow government is going to remove their right to carry a gun,” he said.
Lynch said he supports protecting the Second Amendment and probably would have voted against the law expanding background checks that Gov. Dannel Malloy signed in 2013 following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown.
He said the second biggest topic has been the Democrats’ proposal to increase the minimum wage from $10.10 to $15 an hour by 2022.
“The owners at the diners and the restaurants have said they’ll have to pass the costs on to the consumer, limit hours and reduce staff,” said Lynch.
“You have to consider that this isn’t a brain hub like Seattle, which has a $15 an hour minimum wage, where there is a huge amount of disposable income,” he said.
Lynch is familiar with brain hubs. After graduating from Rhode Island’s Bryant University in 1984, he worked for nine years in Massachusetts’ Route 128 corridor. The high-technology jobs were so plentiful that after lost his first position, he quickly found work less than a mile away at Corporate Software, which sent him to meetings in Seattle with Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
He supports Malloy’s efforts to provide financial incentives to help big employers such as ESPN and Cigna expand their workforce, but believes after six years a follow-study is due.
On Malloy’s proposed $40.6 billion two-year budget, Lynch said he’s concerned that a reduction in municipal aid will force the district’s towns to increase local taxes.
Additionally, he said any unfunded state mandate to the municipalities should require a two-thirds vote in both chambers.
Lynch said to offset some of the projected $3.6 billion deficit for the upcoming budget cycle, he supports a Republican proposal to freeze state employee salaries for three years.
He said, “It’s a better alternative to layoffs.”