State senate candidates Daniel Champagne (R) and John Perrier (D) debated highway tolls, state spending and the legalization of marijuana in the first and only debate for the 35th district of Connecticut.
The event was hosted by E.O. Smith freshmen, supervised by politics teachers at the high school. All freshman students were assigned a project to learn the responsibility of the citizen with state politics. Three freshmen, Nick Lanza, Emma Smith and Ashley Soto, moderated the evening’s event.
Perrier was the first to introduce himself, saying he is endorsed by the Democratic Party, the Independent Party and the Working Families Party. He was born, raised and continues to live in Stafford, Connecticut, where he is the owner of the small business New England Green Homes. He said he plans to expand opportunities for small businesses in the state of Connecticut and continue to bring people into Connecticut’s labor force.
“There is a high level of educated talent we need to continue growing our educated, talented group of people here [in Connecticut],” Perrier said. “[For example], UTC will never leave Connecticut because of the intelligent workforce that we have.”
His opponent, Champagne, has experience participating on his town council, as well as serving as Mayor of Vernon for five years. He also served as a policeman for over twenty-two years.
Both candidates said they were conservative in the respect they aren’t interested in radical change. They both said they share interests in bringing people to Connecticut and keeping people in the state, whether it be private citizens or businesses.
The pressing issue of the addition of highway tolls in Connecticut was another the candidates agreed upon. Both men disapproved of the added costs and hassle to the state.
“If we were to borrow three million dollars [in transportation costs], it will be taking up a lot of space of something else that could’ve been done,” Champagne said.
Perrier agreed, saying the proposal would only be effectively implemented as a regressive tax, in order to offset the costs of tolls to residents.
“I would only support tolls with a reduction in gas tax,” Perrier said, “In the current plan, I don’t like it.”
When asked about the state’s budget, candidates took different approaches to eliminating the deficit.
“We need to stop borrowing,” Champagne said. “We’re financing things that we shouldn’t. The state is there to fix our roads, to protect us; the necessary daily life things, not the wish list.”
In response, Perrier stressed ways in ways Connecticut can gain additional revenue, including sport betting and the legalization of marijuana, as well as bringing the 1045 Master Contracts to competitive bidding.
The topic of marijuana was expanded upon later in the debate, and the candidates held polarizing stances. Champagne was firmly against the legalization of marijuana, saying as an officer, he has seen the damage that it does.
“I don’t believe in the legalization of marijuana… Just by making [drugs] legal doesn’t mean it’s right,” Champagne said. “Tonight, I’ve heard about bringing in revenue from marijuana, bringing it in from gambling… We shouldn’t rely on that as a source of income.”
Perrier responded that the legalization of marijuana has both social and fiscal benefits.
“One of the advantages is that we take the criminal element out of it,” Perrier said, “In states that have legalized it, drug rates actually decrease, opioid usage is down… Washington [D.C] just saved $250 million by releasing marijuana-related non-violent drug offenses.”
The last question of the evening was one moderator Nick Lanza deemed ‘silly’: “What is one thing you respect most about your opponent?”
Perrier answered first, honoring the public service of his opponent during his career.
“Being a policeman. It’s one of the hardest jobs in the world, one of the things I give people credit for… The fact that Dan has been a policeman for 22 years,” Perrier said.
Champagne, in response, urged audience members to volunteer and become involved in local politics.
Regarding his respect of Perrier, Champagne said, “Anybody that puts themselves out there for election...This is not an easy thing. It’s sad, what people say about you when they don’t know you … [candidates are] taking the brunt of some very negative things.”
Both Perrier (D) and Champagne (R) will be on the State Senate ballot. Election day in Connecticut will be held on Nov. 6.
Grace Burns is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.