O'Brien, Zawistowski Engage In 2nd Debate For Suffield, East Granby State Rep. Seat

The two candidates answered prepared and audience-submitted questions at a debate Wednesday night in Suffield.

The second debate between challenger Tami Zawistowski (R) and incumbent State Rep. Elaine O’Brien (D) for Connecticut’s 61st district seat took place in Suffield Wednesday, covering topics from economic growth to open space to the death penalty before a packed audience at the Suffield Senior Center.

Zawistowski brought a message of change in government, economic growth, business acumen and empathy with the needs of local businesses based on her 16 years of experience as a small business owner in East Granby and an end to single party rule in Hartford. O’Brien emphasized her experience in local and state politics, listening skills brought on through her role in many positions in Suffield town government and the state legislature, her willingness to not simply follow the party line and a forward-thinking philosophy for the state, its economy and its legislative actions.

While the candidates had their share of disagreements and factual disputes, the discourse was remarkably respectful and that level of civility seemed to be appreciated by the audience. Charles Cahn III, headmaster of Suffield Academy, skillfully moderated the debate and kept the participants within its rules and limits, ensuring a focus on the topics at hand.

The importance and state funding of open space preservation, a significant topic and source of pride for many in Suffield as well as East Granby, was an issue where the two candidates agreed.

“Preserving farmland [and open space] keeps the community the way it is,” O’Brien said, noting that the consensus she’s heard among Suffield residents is that they enjoy maintaining the pastoral character of the town.

Zawistowski agreed with O’Brien on the importance of maintaining the history and personality of the towns in the district.

“It adds to the quality of life,” she said. “Farmland is precious.”

As for benefits for state workers and keeping the costs of such benefits in check, the answers of the two candidates were indicators of their goals and their experiences.

Zawistowski said she would start chipping away at pensions in a responsible fashion to stop them from getting out of control and becoming too much of a budget drain. She would like to focus on defined contributions versus defined benefits.

O’Brien pointed out that the executive branch of Connecticut’s government is in charge of union contract negotiations and pensions. State workers’ benefits are governed by contracts.

“All we can do [in the legislative branch] is control the budgets,” O’Brien said.

An audience question about the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements yielded differing opinions from the candidates as well. Zawistowski said she was in favor of organized, lawful movements regardless of their goals.

“I can support that,” she said.

She pointed out that the Tea Party began as an organic movement focused on taxation but has changed and become involved in social issues that were not part of its original goals. She said Occupy Wall Street, while a different movement on the political spectrum, has experienced similar issues.

O’Brien, while recognizing the right for free speech, was more negative. She called both movements distractions from more salient issues. She said the Occupy Wall Street Movement lacked goals and an agenda and said the Tea Party is a very destructive movement.

“I don’t think it’s a good thing, I don’t think it’s a good thing at all,” O’Brien said.

Yankeelover October 25, 2012 at 01:40 PM
From the comments on the Tea Party and the Independent roles it looks like O'Brien is not willing to listen to the other side. She has shown that she knows only the party line.
Yankeelover October 25, 2012 at 02:00 PM
I feel sorry for the people of Suffield. This is the person that is your Town Clerk. I wonder if she has the capacity to do the right thing for all the residents of Suffield.
Cari October 25, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Elaine O'Brien has not been representing the residents of Suffield. The only thing she has represented is the Governor's agenda without consideration of the impact on those she was elected to represent. I know several people that have made their way to the town clerk's office to express their disappointment in her. In all of her literature that she has passed out to voters in which she lists what she believes are her accomplishments that she is so proud she left out alot. She left out how she voted in favor of the highest tax increase in CT history. She left out how she voted in favor of releasing prisoners early which has resulted in recent murders. A program that has failed. She left out how she voted for the almost $600 million dollar 9 mile busway that once built will cost $10 million to operate but is only expected to bring in $2.5 million, Taxpayers will have to pick up the additional $7.5 million yearly operational cost. If O'Brien is so proud of her record why did she leave those things out that she voted in favor of? The reason is because they are not what the residents of Suffield were in favor of and they were not in the best interest of the state. She was just hoping that the voters in her district would NOT look into her voting record and find that out before the election. I hope for the sake of the State of CT the residents of Suffield and others in that district get it right in this election and vote Elaine out of office and Tami Z. in on Nov 6th.!
Mike Malloy October 25, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Elaine is the definition of a thoughtful and effective politician. Somewhere lost in these debates is the fact that Tami formed a fringe tea party group, "The Concerned Taxpayers of East Granby" to oppose an elementary school repair project. She also opposed a smaller second project which left a leaking roof, inadequate electrical service, and many other issues at the Allgrove school...where we educate our youngest children. Are these the "principles" she wants us to consider. It certainly has been divisive in East Granby. In these times of tight budgets, well regarded moderate Republicans and Democrats such as Elaine, do well for their constituents. Fringe candidates such as Tami do not. Tami said "Farmland is precious"....what about children ?
Michael Mercier October 25, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Hey Mike Malloy, I am a TEA Party supporter, and I hardly consider myself "fringe" What is it that you dont like about the TEA Party? 1. We believe the government should not have as much control as it does. 2. We believe in less government spending and doing something about the deficit. 3. And to do something about the deficit, we dont believe in taxing taxing and more taxing our way out of it. That has never ever ever never never worked in the history of America. 4. We believe that more Americans should become independant and less reliance on the government (in other words-- taking our tax money in forms of monthly checks) What in the Heck is so fringe about those beliefs???!!!
Yankeelover October 25, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Mike Malloy, typical politician such as yourself will lie and lie to support your party line agenda and candidates. Attack the other points of view then you'll accuse the other side as not willing to sit down to negotiate. With you it's my way or highway. Lies and more lies Mike it's your slogan and your leadership. Maybe your party will see fit to replace you.
Mike Malloy October 25, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Yankeelover, did you care to dispute with facts. BTW I believe in what I say enough to use my name.
Mike Malloy October 25, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Hey Michael Mercier 1.In some ways your right/ In some ways the government is filling a neccesary role 2.Everyone does, I believe it comes down to priorities. That's why Elaine voted against the busway which Tami keeps claiming she supported. Read for yourself. http://articles.courant.com/2012-05-07/news/hc-busway-0508-20120507_1_new-britain-busway-dannel-p-malloy-joe-markley#.UIhVKRQmTJ0.email 3. Yes deficit.. I agree. But Clinton increased taxes marginally on the wealthiest Americans , creating a sense of fiscal responsiblity. What happened ? In the next 7 years the economy created 24 million more jobs and he handed of a budget surplus to Bush. Yes a surplus. That is not never..is it? I know that doesn't fit the tax cutting solves everything narrative, but it's true. You see, it's stable fiscal policy that business thrives on. 4. Agreed, when possible. Affordable healthcare would get a lot of people of the dole who stay on because they can't afford health insurance. But thats a whole nother discussion. BTW Elaine was endorsed by CBIA because she gets it, it's a delicate balance. "What in the Heck is so fringe about those beliefs???!!!" For the most part nothing, It's how you apply them.
Faith Burns October 26, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Mike, Playing fast & loose with the facts, again, sadly not a surprise. Let me correct the record. You snarky comment, '.Tami formed a fringe tea party group.'-Please to explain Mike, how is that possible, when the Concerned Taxpayers of East Granby were formed in March of 2008. The first Tea Party in Hartford, on the courthouse steps was February 27, 2009. I know this to be the truth because I was part of both groups. It was not Tami that was the CTEG rep on the school budget committee, I was the representative, and yes, mine was the lone dissenting voice,on the committe if 12+. Yes, I have no confidence in the prudent expenditure of my tax dollars by the Board of Ed, Your nonsense about leaking roofs,etc--You seem to forget that the BOE has been spending millions, yes milions year, after year, and its never enough. To make specious charges of regarding Tami, is just an insult. It is wrong, but it's typical liberal democrat nonsense. Tami is one of the hardest working individuals I've ever known. In addition, she incredibly gracious, very smart, prudent, and cabable. That's they type of leadership I'm voting for.
Marjie Plante October 26, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Mike Malloy a liar? I have been working with him for over 4 years now, and the last thing Mr. Malloy is, is a liar. You apparently don't know the man at all, and never have done business with him. He has the most integrity of any business man I've ever met.
Faith Burns October 26, 2012 at 06:59 PM
With all due respect, Marjie, there's no way I do any business deals with the man. Integrity is the last word I would use to describe Mike Malloy. Yes I do know him. Yes, he is a liar when he makes false charges that CTEG ," ..formed a fringe tea party group.."--AGAIN,Please to explain how that is possible, when CTEG was founded in March of 2008, the first Tea Party in Hartford was Feb 27, 2009? That makes Mike a liar, to make such a specious charge. I do know Mike since I got involved in local politics back in 2008. In my experience, I have not seen the demeanor or temperment of a prudent, measured leader, in any way shape or form from him. I expect more from leadership. I expect leadership by example, and I have not seen any behavior from Mike that I'd like to emulate. Conversely, Tami embodies leadership by example for me. I respect you for expressing your opinion, I just don't agree with it at all.
Bob Johnson October 26, 2012 at 08:17 PM
I’ve met State Representative Elaine O’Brien. She is a dedicated, respectful, and hard working individual. I have examined her record and she has shown the ability to work bi-partisanly and vote against her party when she believes it in not in our communities best interests. I have worked in the area for a long time and know that Elaine will put our interests first. We need more leaders like Elaine O'Brien in Hartford. She deserves re-election. -Dr. Bob
Ben Rodriguez October 27, 2012 at 04:52 AM
Elaine O'Brien is a credit to her position. She has a great background to serve and is a person of high integrity. She knows how to get work done and others need to follow her example. I recommend Elaine O'Brien for re-election.
George Beiter October 27, 2012 at 01:35 PM
I'm voting for Elaine O'Brien, State Rep, 61st District. Elaine has a proven record of service. Elaine has spent decades helping her local schools, communities and businesses. Elaine understands the balance between government mandates and fiscal responsibilities. That is why she does not always vote party line. Elaine listens to her constituents, learns the issues, and votes in the best interest of her district. With regards to education, few in Hartford understand education as well as Elaine. As a mother of three boys who graduated from our public schools, she understands. As a former Board of Education member she knows what is needed to improve our schools. Programs like: - early childhood education - early reading programs - improved teacher evaluations are just a few examples of improvements Elaine supported in Hartford to better educate our children. I would urge all voters to watch her campaign video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4c59PeLiEDE) to see what Elaine has done in her first two years in Hartford and what many community leaders have to say about her job as a State Rep. On November 6, there is one choice to support our economy, education and our community, and that choice is Elaine O'Brien! George Beiter, Suffield Board of Education
Mike Malloy October 27, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Faith, the tenor of your comments says it all. Elaine represent's a reasonable moderate voice. Tami's record would suggest otherwise. Taxpayer groups" such as the Tami's "Concerned Taxpayers of East Granby " started long before 2009 and crystalized in the tea party. If your unclear you can read all about it on wikipedia. I'm sure you saw the picture in the newspaper of Tami literally wearing "tea bag" earrings at the Ct. rally. Actually I think I saw a picture in the paper she submitted with your Republican Town Chairman Lee Sandora ? I never said Tami was on the second school committee? Though the only reason it came about was because Tami's CTEG claimed the first school project was going to cause a 50 percent tax increase on signs all over town. Remember that whopper ? I guess that sort of "fast and loose" is ok.Unfortunately it had serious repercussions. The second project left several unfunded repairs at Allgrove...which by the way Tami also opposed. I've heard the Board of Ed argument from CTEG for years. Hartford Magazine voted East Granby #1 Small Town despite the fact that it spent less on it's Education Budget as a percentage of it's overall budget then most other towns it's size. But even that is not low enough for CTEG. It never is. And it's not the BOE operating budget that was the issue anyway , it was fixing the crumbling unsafe Elementary Schools which Tami opossed which is the Capitol Budget of the town, not the BOE.. "fast and loose again" ?
Frank October 28, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Faith, Thats ironic that you would accuse some one playing fast and loose with the facts and than proceed to try and prove that Tami has no connection with the radical tea party groups. Just as we watched Tami try and squirm around the question about her blocking needed improvements at the elementary school by trying to confine her answer to her time on the board of finance. Every one knows the lengths Tami went to block this needed funding before she was on the board of finance yet she chose to dodge the question. Faith you and Tamis behavior goes beyond playing "fast and loose with the facts" you both simply are lying repeatedly.I have seen pictures of Tami not only attending the tea party rally in Hartford but dressed in full tea party regalia, including tea bag ear rings. The tea party has become a snap shot of all that is wrong in American Politics, the racism that is so prevalent at their rallies makes them appear to be the new KKK. Their my way or the highway agenda has slowed progress in Washington to a crippling halt. We do not need someone this radical representing us in Hartford, the problems she would create for our district are endless. I understand why you feel the need to try to paint Tami as someone who is not so radical but the facts are the facts.


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