DuPont offers affordability, local control of education, health care access in race for 64th District seat

In the 64th District — which has elected only one single-term Republican state representative since 2000 — first-time Republican candidate Chris Dupont says he’ll try to address the “affordability crisis” in Connecticut’s northwest corner and will ensure that his rural district continues to have access to health services.

DuPont, who works for a consulting firm that helps businesses and manufacturers develop their workforce and reduce their energy costs, and has worked on congressional campaigns, said he is running for the state House because he wants to be a part of change of the direction of the state, and to stand for the north-west corner.

The 64th District — which includes the towns of Canaan, Cornwall, Kent, Norfolk, North Canaan, Sharon and Salisbury and parts of Goshen and Torrington — has been reliably Democratic in the recent past, with one-term state Rep. Brian Ohler the only Republican representing the district since 2000. However, the election was close, with DuPont’s opponent, Democratic incumbent Rep. Maria Horne, winning the 2018 and 2020 elections with less than 52 percent of the vote.

DuPont spoke with the CT Examiner about several key issues in this year’s election.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

CTEx: What would be your main goals in the legislature?

DuPont: The first is accessibility. Here in NW Connecticut, gas prices, diesel, food, everything is getting more expensive. I think we really need to look at what we can do as a state to help our residents. We have a surplus and our rainy day fund is plentiful and it’s raining right now. We have to help the people of the state.

CTEx: What do you think about the job the state has done balancing the cost of energy with its clean energy goals?

DuPont: I understand that there are clean energy goals and I’m all for moving to a greener economy. But we can’t just flip a switch and say, “Okay, we’re green today.” I think we have to work with everyone to get to that green energy, but we’re not there yet.

It gets pretty cold in the northwest corner in the winter and I’m afraid of what will happen in the winter. Will people be able to pay their heating bills? Will they be able to put gas in their car? The situation is just very bad.

I know the LIHEAP program was funded by the federal government, and that’s good because it wasn’t funded at the level it was in previous years, while energy costs are more expensive than they’ve ever been.

The upcoming highway use tax will increase everyone’s energy costs: oil trucks, gas trucks, food trucks, everything will be taxed. And I think that’s something that the legislature has to deal with. The majority party was unwilling to go into special session before the election, and I think that’s something the governor and the legislature should advocate for. We have real problems here in the winter.

CTEx: How can the state make healthcare more affordable?

DuPont: I think the government is doing a good job of making healthcare more accessible and affordable. I think we should take care of people who can’t take care of themselves.

In Northwestern Connecticut, Sharon Hospital has its Certificate of Need pending review, and they want to eliminate maternity services and possibly the ICU. And as a former firefighter/EMT, I don’t think we should eliminate any services. That’s something I’d like to focus on, just making sure we have all of our services in Northwest Connecticut.

CTEx: What do you think the role of the state should be to ensure that people have access to affordable housing, and is there any policy that you think should be changed or implemented?

DuPont: I don’t believe that the cities in the northwest corner, indeed the entire state, need mandates from Hartford. I think our cities do a good job of governing themselves. I think we’re getting there. We know this is an expensive state and we need to keep this area accessible to young people, volunteer firefighters and emergency crews. These people should live here and should be able to afford it.

CTEx: What more should the state do to make life more affordable?

DuPont: The gas tax comes back in December, and that’s another issue that I think the Legislature needs to be in special session — whether it’s right before an election or not — to look at it. We need to either repeal this tax or find some compromise so that we don’t drop this tax on people’s heads right after an election.

I think the gas tax should be abolished. I agree with Bob Stefanowski’s proposal to eliminate 200 taxes – many of them cost more to administer than they take in. And that’s the thing about the truck tax—I don’t think anyone’s really sure how they’re going to do that yet.

CTEx: What would be your priorities for improving education in Connecticut?

DuPont: I think the regionalization of many of the schools in this area is a big help because with the affordability crisis there are fewer kids in the northwest corner. I think cities are now working together to educate their children.

This is another issue where I don’t think we need state mandates saying, “Oh, you have to teach this.” Let’s let our local Board of Ed decide, these people were elected by the people in their towns and I think that these are the people who should oversee education in every city.

I think a lot can be done by cities and the legislature should support their cities. Northwestern Connecticut is very different from New Haven County.

CTEx: What do you think about the Police Accountability Act of 2020 and is there anything that needs to be changed?

DuPont: We need to bring back qualified immunity for employees. I don’t know why we’re making their jobs harder. That’s another issue that lawmakers had to call into special session to address.

CTEx: What do you think about the legalization of marijuana and do you think there are any changes that need to be made in the way this is implemented?

DuPont: I think that was probably smart legislation. Since all our border states are doing it, we need to participate in it.

I think the police really need to come up with a way to detect if someone is stoned driving around. This is the biggest problem I see.

CTEx: Where do you see yourself in the Republican Party?

DuPont: I’m probably more of a moderate than an extreme conservative. What drew me to the party is what they offer for people who want to work. I think the GOP offers a lot more ideas than the Democrats.

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