On Tuesday, Attorney General candidates William Tong (D) and Peter Goselin (G) participated in a debate at UConn. The event touched on several topics, including criminal justice reform, marijuana legalization and the treatment of undocumented immigrants in Connecticut. Both candidates agreed in principle on the vast majority of the issues that were discussed. They both supported the legalization of marijuana and broadening of illnesses that qualified for medical marijuana use, targeting mass incarceration and protecting undocumented immigrants in the state. They also expressed their commitment to continuing current Attorney General George Jepsen’s fight against drug manufacturers that fuel the opioid epidemic.
The differences between the candidates, therefore, primarily revolved around very specific details or how far they would take certain policies. For example, Goselin spoke very aggressively about the failure of the war on drugs in relation to the opioid epidemic and marijuana. He also took it a step further than Tong in regards to his opposition to police brutality and how far he would go in pursuing police departments who use excessive force. For his part, Tong spoke about how the issue of undocumented immigrants was very important to him personally. His father had at one time been undocumented, and Tong reflected on how this has led him to empathize with those in a similar predicament and vote for legislation (such as in-state tuition for undocumented students) supporting them.
One cannot discount the fact that Tong’s experience in the state legislature will be invaluable. The relationships he has cultivated and experiences he has gained in the Connecticut House of Representatives will be of great use in regards to his ability to influence legislation. He already has a number of legislative accomplishments he can point to. For example, “Second Chance Society” laws show he is committed to making a difference. Goselin, on the other hand, has more of an activist background. He repeatedly pointed to grassroots campaigning he has performed in regards to issues as evidence of his strong commitment to civil rights and the people of the state. Goselin currently works as a labor lawyer, with his areas of expertise being unpaid wages/wage theft, workplace discrimination and free speech.
Both candidates have impressive credentials and appear committed to improving the lives of people around the state. Voters will have to weigh whether the experience of working in the state legislature is more valuable to them than a history of activism and advocacy. They would do well to read more about the candidates’ positions online in order to make an informed decision about who to vote for. And while Attorney General might not be a flashy position, it is of paramount importance that we are all informed and participating in the process of this particular election.