Even if the public’s attention seems singularly focused on the presidential race this fall, there is a local race for state senate that is being followed with interest. Long-time state Sen. Joseph Crisco of Woodbridge, D-17, is being challenged by a newcomer to the political arena, Ansonia resident George Logan, to represent the people of the 17th District. The state GOP has listed the 17th among its “16 races to watch in ’16,” and the online Ballotpedia.com listed it as one of seven notable legislative races in Connecticut, which may tip the balance of power in the state legislature to the Republicans.
The seven-town district spans from the Valley (parts of Beacon Falls, Naugatuck, Ansonia and Derby) to Bethany, Woodbridge and Hamden, including anything from rural areas to suburban and inner-city neighborhoods, each with their own needs.
Crisco has the backing of the Connecticut Education Association and is being cross-endorsed by the Working Families Party. Logan has the backing of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association and is being cross endorsed by the Independent Party.
The challenger: Given the wide geographical area, Logan has to work hard to get his name out. “I am knocking on doors just about every day,” he said. In addition to the personal presence, the Internet offers a handy platform to reach the electorate. To learn more about his political philosophy, people can check out his website, Logan4CT.com , or go to his Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Logan4CT/. A short video he posted on his website to introduce himself was viewed by 24,000 people, he said.
Logan, 47, is director of Environmental Management at Aquarion Water Co., based in Easton. He grew up in New Haven and graduated from Notre Dame High School and Trinity College. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering. He has lived in New Haven, Hartford, Milford and Hamden. He is married with two teenagers, son Hunter, a senior at Notre Dame High School, and daughter Tracey, a sophomore at St. Joseph’s in Trumbull. His wife, Lisa, is an RN with the department of Health and Addiction Services. His religious home is at Assumption Roman Catholic Church in Ansonia.
Although running on the Republican ticket, Logan has been unaffiliated most of his life. Thoughtful and articulate, with an easy smile, he calls himself a “moderate” Republican, adding that it puts him well in line with the folks in the district. “I don’t represent a party,” he said in an interview with this reporter. “I want to represent everyone.”
This is the first time he is running for public office, but he has been involved in the community in many volunteer leadership roles, including, but not limited to, the Griffin Hospital Board of Directors, The Valley Chamber of Commerce, the YMCA and Jr. Achievement. He has served on the African-American Affairs Commission, including as its chairman.
Taxes, budget, jobs: The state keeps falling deeper and deeper into a fiscal crisis, Logan said which is the reason he felt it was time for him to step up. “The folks up there need a new direction,” he said, adding that he has the business acumen needed to help turn the ship around.
His political platform is firmly anchored in conservative fiscal philosophy, according to which too much regulation and taxation are stifling the state’s economic vitality. “Companies are leaving the state,” he said. If more people chose to stay, both the companies and the individuals, more people would pay into the pot and everyone would pay less. He is not in favor of the large tax credits that have been used to entice big employers to stay in Connecticut. “We need to fix the tax structure so we don’t have to hand out [the tax credits].” When the state makes tax deals, that’s when things get political, he said, leading to reactionary, knee-jerk solutions, rather than getting ahead of the problem. To improve the efficiency of state government, leaders should turn to the state workers, he said. “They know where the inefficiencies are. They have the experience, they have the knowledge.”
His business experience has taught him to pull together folks with different expertise to solve a problem, he said. If elected, he would work toward being more inclusive trying to solve the issues at hand, whereas the current majority leadership gets behind closed doors. “Let’s agree on what the problem is in the first place,” he said. Each bill needs to be looked at in terms of how it affects the people in the 17th District, he said. In his view, Senator Joe Crisco is too closely aligned with the governor. “If Crisco believes Gov. Malloy has all the answers for the 17th District, well, I strongly disagree.”
Crisco spells out accomplishments: Senator Joeseph Crisco, a Democrat, meanwhile is seeking his 13th two-year term. First elected in 1992, he has a long list of accomplishments to point to, some of them going back to his early years in the Senate — such as creation of the Family Day tradition or the Biomedical Research Fund — others more recent.
“I have a proven record, proven accomplishments,” he said in a phone conversation. He is quick to point out that most accomplishments are due to successful cooperation on the part of staff and colleagues in the legislature, even from across the aisle. He also mentions constituents’ cooperation to get things moving forward. One example of that cooperation was the recent concerted effort in Bethany to keep the State Police barracks in town. With town officials, residents and local legislators from both parties getting in behind the issue, Troop I was removed from the fiscal chopping block and continues to serve south-central Connecticut, including the Merrit Parkway.
Recognitions: Crisco is the recipient of numerous awards over the years, to the extent that they fill 34 pages. Among them is a Military Order of the Purple Heart citation for his work on behalf of veterans and their families. Most recently, the Connecticut Captive Insurance Association has honored him as one of its “2016 Legislative Champions” for his leadership on insurance and risk management policy issues.
Crisco, 82, chairs the Insurance & Real Estate Committee and is vice chairman of the Banks, Commerce and Public Health committees. He is also a member of the influential Executive and Legislative Nominations and Legislative Management committees. In the Democratic caucus, he is the chief deputy president pro tempore and also serves as the federal relations liaison.
Budget cuts: Crisco is well aware of the budget issues ahead. But he does not agree that lawmakers are doing nothing about it. “This year we cut 900 million from the budget,” he said. “We made some tough choices.” What resulted, after several months of wrangling, was a budget that required no tax increases nor any fee increases. In spite of extensive cuts to the state budget, they managed to preserve the state support for municipalities and preserve the funding for hospitals. They expanded the state’s PreK program and the CARE Act for Seniors. In addition, there were a number of bills for the benefit of veterans, including an income tax exemption. “We did a lot,” he summarized the latest budget session, “even though we had to cut.” [A list of Crisco’s initiatives is printed below.]
Keeping employers in the state: As for job and business retention, the governor, with the support of lawmakers, passed legislation allowing “investment” in the state’s big manufacturers, including Electric Boat, Lockheed Martin (Sikorsky) and Pratt&Whitney. Crisco quoted budget experts, saying the state can expect a return of $9 on every dollar invested. “And we are keeping them here” until at least 2032.
Is the senator too aligned with the Governor, as his critics maintain? “The Governor has made some great decisions,” Crisco said, namely his support for state hospitals and his continued support of municipal funding, which helps towns maintain their services. But as for his own record, Crisco says it speaks for itself. “I have a proven record and proven service,” he said of his past 24 years in Hartford. “I have deeds and not words.”
From his website: Senator Crisco holds a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from the University of Connecticut and studied at the graduate level at Trinity College in Hartford. Before being elected to the State Senate, he worked for the United Technologies Corporation, and eventually was named director of government affairs in 1986. He was promoted to national director of state and local government affairs in 1990. Senator Crisco has also been an associate professor of economics at Quinnipiac University, Sacred Heart University, and the University of New Haven. Raised in New Haven, he lives in Woodbridge with his wife, Pat. They have six children and 18 grandchildren.
Bills sponsored by Joseph Crisco this last session, as listed by Ballotpedia.
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent