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FAIRFIELD — The person who represents the 134th District has to satisfy constituents in two towns — Fairfield and Trumbull.
It’s the only one of the three state House districts that is split between two communities, and since 2014, Republican Laura Devlin has been its representative. She is challenged this year by Democrat Ashley Gaudiano.
A Fairfield resident for 25 years, Devlin said she first got involved in local politics as a member of the Board of Assessment Appeals and then the Representative Town Meeting, prompted, she said, by skyrocketing property taxes. The state’s fiscal issues are no secret.
“We must stop spending money we don’t have and start living within our means,” Devlin said. “State spending is at record levels, and despite the two largest tax increases in our state’s history, both crippling to middle-class workers and one that was retroactive for nine months, we are still left with a deficit of more than $4 billion over the next biennium.”
She said some of the reforms her party worked to include in the budget compromise were implementing strict spending, borrowing and revenue caps.
“These changes will help keep government spending in check, require prioritization of state bonding on capital projects, and require any unexpected extra revenue go toward paying down long-term debts. Connecticut can’t continue to operate by kicking the fiscal can down the road for future generations to pay,” Devlin said.
“Families, local leaders and businesses are hungry for predictable and sustainable state budget plans, but instead are continually being threatened with education and municipal aid cuts that only drive property taxes up,” Devlin said. “The communities I represent are fiscally responsible and have been continually targeted for cuts by Gov. (Dannel) Malloy. I have fought against and stopped cuts for Fairfield and Trumbull’s education and state funding.
A nonprofit consultant, Trumbull resident Gaudiano serves on the Trumbull Town Council.
“I think it’s critical that we acknowledge there is no one-size-fits-all solution to Connecticut’s financial problems,” Gaudiano said. “Our primary focus must be on creating jobs and growing the economy.”
Gaudiano said the state needs to invest in small and midsized businesses. “We also need to create innovation corridors between our high schools, universities and job markets, so that our graduates come out with the knowledge and skills necessary to fill jobs right here in our state,” she said, as well as look at affordability, so young people have the opportunity to live, work and raise families in Connecticut.
“A recent United Way report showed that 40 percent of the population in Connecticut cannot afford their basic needs,” she said. “And we know that in communities across this state, it’s a struggle for middle class families to get by.”
Gaudiano supports phasing in a higher minimum wage and passing earned family medical leave legislation, as well as expanding access to early education and ensure stable work scheduling for on-call workers.
“We must support the work of the Pension Sustainability Commission, and investigate the feasibility of utilizing real assets as a form of payment against our unfunded pension liabilities,” Gaudiano said.
The two find themselves on the same page when it comes to the issue of so-called “ghost guns” and 3D printed guns.
“I strongly support legislation that bans ghost guns and 3D printable guns,” Gaudiano said. “We owe it to our children, our neighbors and our communities to pass this legislation.” Named a Moms Demand Action Candidate of Distinction, Gaudiano said she has pledged to push for legislation on these issues in the 2019 session.
“We must make it clear that firearms manufactured out of plastic using 3D technology, or ‘ghost guns’ that are assembled by hand without serial numbers, are subject to the same laws as other firearms in our state,” Gaudiano said. “To do anything short of banning ghost guns and 3D printable guns is unacceptable and negligent on the part of our legislators.”
“I co-sponsored the ghost gun legislation, HB-5540, which would ban guns without serial numbers and regulate those which are sold in a form requiring the purchaser to finish assembly or that are homemade,” Devlin said, although she said the bill wasn’t called for a vote in the last session. She also co-sponsored and voted for Public Act 18-29, banning bump stocks.
“I oppose any state law that would permit an individual from downloading a gun via a 3D printer,” Devlin said. “Connecticut has some of the strictest firearms laws in the country, and allowing a person to find a schematic for a firearm online and plugging it into a 3D printer to create a gun on the spot goes against the intent of our existing gun prevention safety laws.”
Should she win re-election, Devlin said she will spend the next session working to make the state more affordable for all its residents.
“Neighbor after neighbor tell me they can no longer afford to live in our state, they’re simply tapped out,” Devlin said. “I stand ready to continue to fight for them, whether they’re a young adult looking for employment after college, a middle-class family managing their monthly checkbook week to week, or retired seniors on fixed incomes, who just want to stay in their home without the threat of higher property taxes.”
She cited a recent report from the Pew Charitable Trusts ranking Connecticut with the lowest personal income growth of any state since 2007.
“I will continue to work to create an environment that encourages businesses to come, stay and grow in Connecticut, providing jobs that will support our families and keep young people in our state,” Devlin said. “I believe when companies do well in Connecticut, Connecticut families will succeed. What’s most important to residents in Fairfield and Trumbull is Connecticut’s economy and investing in our infrastructure.”
Gaudiano said the first thing she’d like to do is offer the residents of the 134th an “ally and advocate” in Hartford.
“I’ve made a promise to thousands of individuals and families that I will fight every day for the issues that impact their lives,” she said. “The issues raised by residents at their doors include access to affordable health care, lower prescription drug costs, senior tax relief, disability and special education advocacy, increased minimum wage, small business support, gun violence prevention and securing teacher pensions.”
Gaudiano said being an advocate for constituents “also includes a focus on economic growth, job creation, and developing and implementing a long-term plan for our state’s infrastructure.”
An attorney, small business owner and community volunteer, Gaudiano said her skills and career make her uniquely positioned to advocate for the community.
“I know what it looks like to make laws, and I know what it means for a law to touch a person, a community, a business, a household,” she said. “When I head to Hartford, I will spend every day as an advocate for the people of the 134th District and our state.” Gaudiano said there is too much at stake to remain silent and she will never be afraid to stand up for what is right, “no matter the political cost.”
After a corporate career, Devlin is also a small business owner.
“I have repeatedly stood up for residents and businesses, and I have worked hard to secure our municipal and education funding, stop tax increases, promote job opportunity, preserve the environment, help craft and pass legislation to combat opioid abuse, champion education initiatives, and support the health of firefighters, women and families,” Devlin said.
“Sometimes the job of a legislator is to stop ‘bad bills,’ and I have stood up and prevented a bill that would have imposed a nine-year retroactive tax increase on every hospital that serves every resident in Connecticut,” Devlin said. “I care deeply about representing Fairfield and Trumbull, and I’m proud to have earned a 100 percent voting score every year since elected in 2014, and I pledge to continue to fight for the people I’m honored to represent.”
Devlin has been endorsed by the Connecticut Independent Party, the Association of Retired Teachers of Connecticut, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Connecticut Realtors and the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters.
Her opponent, Gaudiano, has received endorsements from the AFL-CIO, Moms Demand Action, Run For Something, Women’s March CT, NOW-CT, Planned Parenthood, Uniformed Professional Firefighters Association of CT, NARAL, CEA and the National Association of Social Workers.