By Donald Eng – Special to the Woodbridge Town News
What you see is what you get when it comes to Phil Tripp, the Republican challenger to 11-term incumbent Joseph Crisco in the 17th Senate District race. Tripp, a Hamden native and president of the Ansonia Board of Aldermen, is hoping voters see the state Senate as a natural extension of his military career. He retired as a lieutenant colonel from the Army Reserve last year, and his campaign signs and pamphlets include his rank.
“I’m very proud of my service to the state and the country, and I want to bring the same dedication to service with me to Hartford,” Tripp said. “I feel like it’s a title I’ve earned and I’m proud to have it.”
Though an underdog against Crisco, Tripp has run his campaign with military precision, methodically accomplishing tasks like fundraising that frequently foil political newcomers. In fact, his campaign has even attracted some star power, with movie and television actor John Ratzenberger appearing at an event. “Phil comes from a place that’s real,” Ratzenberger said. “He deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. It doesn’t get any more real than that.”
Tripp’s campaign has focused on the state of Connecticut’s economy and opposition to the federal Common Core curriculum standards. Citing Connecticut’s traditional ranking near the top of the nation’s best-educated states, Tripp said forced adherence to a federal standard would be a step backward for state students. “I don’t see where we need the federal government dictating how our children are taught,” he said. “I don’t see the need for Connecticut to adhere to federal guidelines. It’s wrong on so many levels.”
Reliance on standardized tests to evaluate students is also wrong, he said. In talking to people throughout the district, including parents and teachers, Tripp said, both parents and teachers have expressed concerns about increased standardized testing. “They do not like testing for the sake of testing,” he said.
But if Connecticut ranks near the top of education lists, the opposite is true when it comes to economic indicators, Tripp said. “I’m tired of the state being at the bottom of every economic indicator,” he said. To get the economy moving, Tripp said rolling back last year’s tax hikes was the single highest priority. “A lot of families were already struggling, and this is breaking their backs,” Tripp said.
The tax burden also harmed businesses, siphoning off funds that could have been used to hire workers. “We are abusing the very institution that we rely on to create jobs,” Tripp said. “We need to get the private sector going again.”