WESTPORT, Conn. – The Daily Voice sent five questions to each candidate running for state office this fall. The following responses are from state Sen. Toni Boucher, a Republican running for her third term in the 26th Senate District, which includes Westport, Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston and Wilton. She is challenged by Democrat Carolanne Curry.
Boucher, a nearly 30-year resident of Wilton, has a long career in politics. Before she was elected to this seat in 2008, Boucher served 12 years as the state representative from the 143rd District. Before that, she was on the Wilton Board of Selectmen and the Wilton Board of Education, where she served as chairwoman.
Boucher, who immigrated to the United States from Europe with her family at age 5, was also a commissioner on the Connecticut State Board of Education. Outside of politics, Boucher worked as a small business owner and as a business executive at Fortune 50 companies.
In her spare time, Boucher enjoys cooking and gardening. She and her husband, Bud, who have been married for more than 40 years, have three children and five grandchildren.
1.) What are the biggest issues facing your district?
The No. 1 concern is jobs. Unemployment in the state is 9 percent, compared to 7.1 percent for New England.
The No. 2 issue, as expressed by a woman I met, is the state’s debt. Connecticut has a spending problem. Taxpayers are concerned about their financial security and about this year’s historic retroactive increase on everything, fueled by a two-year 7 percent spending increase.
The third area of concern is the quality of education. There are wide achievement gaps in our major cities, which is hurting other towns and cities as well because funding becomes scarce.
2.) What were your biggest achievements in office?
Most recently, I helped craft a no tax increase alternate budget to present to the governor, but it did not pass. I was partially responsible for the minority budget of 2007-08 that did not include a tax increase.
I worked hard to get the lights back on when they were put out during last year’s storms. I helped complete stalled road-widening projects throughout the region. I’m responsible for several rail improvement projects, one of the biggest being the implementation of a new signal system from Norwalk to Danbury that’s been stalled 12 years. I helped to open some rail stations that were closed, put in bathroom facilities where there weren’t any, helped add 300 new rail cars to the New Haven Line.
I stopped the reintroduction of tolls in Connecticut, worked to protect open space farm land, help negotiate major education improvements and was major player in higher education reform. I was also responsible for the pledge to commuters, a passenger Bill of Rights, that’s posted in every rail car.
3.) Is Connecticut going in the right or wrong direction?
With unemployment rising, people losing their jobs, and high taxes, we’re definitely going in the wrong direction. We have people in the legislature who have a negative view of businesses and that thinking needs to be turned around. Also, Connecticut is pretty retirement-unfriendly. The state needs to revisit its approach to property taxes, taxes on pensions, taxes on inheritance and gifts, and taxes on real estate, as these hit retirees the hardest and make it hard to stay here.
4.) What would you do to involve your constituents in your decision-making process?
I actually do many face-to-face meetings and listen to what people are concerned about. I visit homes directly, host town hall meetings and have surveys sent to individual homes if people can’t be there in person.
I have a very extensive newsletter that’s sent out by email and regular mail for those who don’t have email, and a very interactive website, Facebook and Twitter. Also, I personally like to respond to people by phone.
5.) Why should people vote for you?
I think I have proven I listen to my constituents and that I work hard for them and put them first. I hope I’ve conducted myself in a way that people are proud to call me their representative. I’ve worked on their behalf and listened to them rather than have my own priorities. One of the things I think people appreciate is that I have a stake in Connecticut. Because I love our state and our system of government, my stake in its future is free from special interest concerns. I’ve shown I have the courage to make difficult decisions. I don’t just talk: I’ve gotten things done.