University of Connecticut senior Ryan P. Hughes declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Connecticut State Representative for the 53rd district on Wednesday.
Hughes, an eighth-semester political science major from Tolland, said he is running to represent the people of Tolland, Ashford and Willington because he feels the issues that matter to the district are not being addressed.
“Eastern Connecticut is a forgotten about area of the state, and that’s why the Democratic Party has been losing ground here,” Hughes said. “For me, it’s about running on issues that matter for the voters in the district. The people here may have voted for Trump, but that doesn’t mean they can’t vote for me.”
Among the issues Hughes said he feels are being neglected is the problem of houses built with faulty concrete.
“The issue of crumbling foundations is one that people have whispered about for years, but it’s intensifying,” Hughes said. “Towns are starting to lose their tax base because homes are becoming worthless in the area.”
Hughes said he believes the current 53rd district Republican incumbent Sam Belsito, along with other politicians in the area, have ignored this problem for far too long.
“State Representative Sam Belsito has done nothing on the issue of crumbling foundations,” Hughes said. “A lot of the representatives in the area should be leading the charge. This is an Eastern Connecticut issue, and right now you don’t have that. We need a fighter.”
Hughes said he was motivated to run for this seat because he feels Belsito is “unfit for office.”
“Sam Belsito is the embodiment of everything that’s wrong with politics on the national, state and local level,” Hughes said. “His biggest liability is his own mouth and his own flawed ideas.”
Hughes, who is openly gay, said he anticipates malicious comments from Belsito during the election season but believes they won't have any bearing on his ability to unseat Belsito.
“It’s about getting the right person nominated so the right person can beat him,” Hughes said. “And I’m that person.”
Another one of the issues Hughes said he is most passionate about is keeping millennials like him in the state.
“We spend so much money as a state on education. We have some of the best schools in the country,” Hughes said. “It makes no sense to me that we spend all this money on education and then do nothing to keep that investment here. If we’re going to survive as a state, we need people like me and my peers to stay here.”
Hughes, a self-labeled progressive, said he feels the only way to keep millennials in Connecticut is to make the environment appealing.
“We need to get creative with things such as student loan forgiveness that goes a long way for not a huge investment,” Hughes said. “Millennials also want to live in an area where they can walk to things, where they can smoke pot - a progressive urban area.”
Hughes said he believes Connecticut is at a crossroads where Connecticut leadership now needs to determine what the state will look like in the future.
“Connecticut has an identity crisis. We’re not sure who we want to be, what direction we want to go,” Hughes said. “Connecticut needs to stay progressive and blue.”
Andrew Miano is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.