January 25, 2022

33rd Senate Race Takes Sharper Turn in Final Days

AREAWIDE— The three candidate contest for the open 33rd Senate District seat has taken a sharper tone in the campaign’s final days with a mailing from Democratic candidate Jim Crawford highlighting an endorsement for Republican nominee Art Linares from the Family Institute, a conservative group that stresses social issues such as abortion and opposing rights for homosexuals.

Crawford, a former Westbrook selectman and the one-term Democratic state representative for the 35th House District, is competing with Linares, a 24-year-old businessman of Cuban heritage from Westbrook, for the seat held for the past two decades by Democratic State Senator Eileen Daily of Westbrook. The race is complicated by an active campaign waged by Green Party nominee Melissa Schlag, a civic activist from Haddam who organized opposition last year to the now cancelled Connecticut River land swap that was supported by Daily.

Crawford also has the ballot line of the Working Families Party, while Linares also has the line of the Independent Party, a Waterbury-based group that supported former Chester First Selectman Tom Marsh for governor in 2010.

Both Crawford and Linares faced challenges for their party nominations in a race that fully developed after Daily announced her decision to retire on May 15. Linares was edged on a 24-22 delegate vote at the May 14 GOP nominating convention by Neil Nichols, the Essex Republican who was Daily’s opponent in 2010. But days later Nichols withdrew and endorsed Linares. Crawford faced a primary challenge from Mary Ellen Klinck, a former state commissioner on aging and longtime party activist from East Haddam. Crawford defeated Klinck by 498 votes in the Aug. 14 primary.

All three campaigns have been well funded, with Crawford raising $145,000 and Linares raising $107,000, totals that include funding grants received under the state’s Citizens Elections Program. Schlag has also raised significant funding as a third party candidate, reporting contributions totaling $13,243 on the latest campaign finance report.

In two public debates last month, the candidates stressed economic issues. Crawford cited his support for a bipartisan jobs bill last fall and called for increased support for community colleges and technical schools. Linares, who is a co-founder of the Middletown-based Green Skies solar energy company, contended tax increases supported by Crawford in the 2011 state budget plan have hampered businesses and economic recovery. Linares has also criticized Crawford’s support for an early release program for prison inmates that was initiated by the administration of Democratic governor Dannel Malloy. Schlag has stressed her independence from the two major political parties and special interests, advocating a progressive agenda that includes higher taxes on large corporations and the wealthy, along with term limits and greater transparency in government.
But a late campaign mailing from Crawford has shifted some of the focus in the race by noting the support for Linares from the conservative Family Institute group that pushes social issues, while cautioning liberal and progressive voters that supporting Schlag could help elect an “ultra-conservative Republican.”

The district-wide mailing declares that  “when right-wing extremist group the Family Institute endorses Art Linares, it should give us all pause.” The mailing says Linares solicited an endorsement from the group, declaring he is “too inexperienced to understand the impact the Family Institute’s divisive policies have on real people.” The mailing also addresses Schlag’s campaign, declaring “there is to much at stake in this election to risk your vote.”

In an interview Friday, Schlag  said she has “received a lot of backlash from Democratic Party leaders saying I’m ruining it.” Schlag said she would “not be beholden to party leaders,” adding “if that is the mentality we might as well have a perpetual vote on your tax return.” Schlag has been endorsed by the New London Day and the Norwich Bulletin, two newspapers that cover towns on the eastern edge of the 12-town district.

In an interview Thursday, Crawford praised Schlag as a “worthy opponent”, while suggesting that most of the votes she garners would be pulled from district Democrats. “I am worried about it,” he said. Linares, who did not mention social issues like abortion and homosexual rights during the debates, could not be reached late this week for comment on the Crawford mailing.

Both Crawford and Schlag said Linares is “too inexperienced” to serve in the state senate, though Crawford added that he is pleased to see Linares, a former student in his middle school social studies class “take it to the next level,” by running for public office. The 33rd District includes the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook, and portions of Old Saybrook.