State House candidate Mark Sargent has not yet secured enough in donations to qualify for public funding, following a Tuesday night fundraiser at Huskies Restaurant & Bar.
“We’re getting close (to getting state funding). I’m glad that the people who came out did come out,” said Sargent, a current Mansfield Town Councilor. “I had some good conversations with some people I had personal relationships with in the movement and some new residents of the town of Mansfield. All in all I think it was a good night.”
Sargent, a Republican, is running against three-term Democratic incumbent Gregg Haddad, who won his most recent election with over two-thirds of votes cast.
Sargent’s fundraiser at Huskies offered an open bar to those of age for a $15 admission to his campaign. If his campaign raises $5,000 in small donations before the Oct. 15 deadline, he’ll qualify for a grant of up to $28,150 from the state’s Citizens’ Election Program.
“I figured then with the last deadline approaching in our push for public finance I’d love to connect with UConn students as much as possible and hear their concerns and have them get to know me in a very relaxed setting and to be able to enjoy responsibly, of course,” Sargent said.
No Republican candidate for this seat has qualified for the grant in history, Sargent said.
Sargent, formerly president of the Undergraduate Student Government at the University of Connecticut, has volunteers from the UConn College Republicans on his campaign.
“He’s been to [College Republicans] meetings. He uses the general membership when he needs some help,” vice chair of UConn College Republicans Tim Sullivan said.
Sullivan said he supports Sargent in hopes of increasing representation for students and solving funding problems for the university.
“Connecticut’s been a Democratic state for a long time, and the same old solutions to just move money around from lockboxes doesn’t really work,” Sullivan said. “Plus you see cuts to this university, and they increase as the spending goes up for the university so it’s really hitting us hard. Personally I feel we just need new representation for the students.”
Sargent said he currently has no campaign manager but added that he has several close advisors.
“At a state representative level, I think you really have to be in the campaign because once you start delegating too much you remove yourself from the situation and don’t really know get to know as many people on a personal level,” Sargent said.
Sargent said he agreed with Haddad on issues such as affirmative consent, but considered himself to represent the newer generation.
“How I differ is bringing in a new generation, a new conversation for what I think is needed in Hartford,” Sargent said. “What we’ve seen is year after year promises being made to not only the people of Connecticut but especially in Mansfield, and the return of the outcomes have not always necessarily been the same.”
Sargent cited a recent state audit that found UConn had improperly redirected nearly $50 million in state funds from deferred maintenance and instead used it to expand and upgrade facilities.
“We need to be focusing on more fiscal responsibility within the university, and while we (through the state legislature) can’t have a direct impact on how the university’s, administration does that, we can definitely put a lot more pressure and influence on, which to be honest I don’t think we’ve had a strong voice in Hartford to represent the UConn students in that manner for quite some time,” Sargent said.
First-semester business major and College Republican John Terwilliger said he valued seeing a young Republican running for office.
“It’s cool to hear opinions from someone my age group rather than an old grey-haired Republican,” Terwilliger said.
Sargent and Haddad will debate at E.O. Smith High School on Oct. 26.
Christopher McDermott is the news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.