State Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, is seeking her fifth term and is being challenged by Democrat Nick Gauthier for the 38th District seat.
The 38th House District includes Waterford and parts of the Uncasville and Oakdale sections of Montville after the redistricting.
McCarty, 72, has spent his tenure primarily dealing with health and education issues. She is a ranking member of the legislature’s education committee and sits on the public health and appropriations committees. Its caucuses include women, persons with disabilities and tourism, arts and culture.
In her professional life, McCarty has been a Connecticut high school French teacher, co-pilot, co-owner of a family business, athletic trainer, and assistant to the director of Fordham University’s Medieval Studies program.
A mother of two grown daughters and grandmother of three grandchildren, McCarty has also served as chair of the Waterford Board of Education, among a list of volunteer activities.
Gauthier, 35, is a Waterford native and a two-term Waterford Representative Town Meeting (RTM) representative who currently works for the town’s Department of Elder Services. He is a graduate of Waterford High School and the University of Connecticut and holds a master’s degree in public administration. He was also an activist, union organizer, grassroots political organizer and community organizer.
McCarty last beat Baird Welch-Collins in the 2020 election winning 52.2% of the vote.
Gauthier, who served on the RTM alongside Welch-Collins, said the two share similar philosophies on the majority of issues, especially when it comes to better representing residents.
“I don’t know how I can really, really represent someone unless we’ve met, unless we’ve spoken, unless we’ve had this open dialogue,” Gauthier said, explaining that he goes the “extra mile” every time. door he knocks on.
Gauthier said he was tired of “banging his head against a brick wall” when it came to his work as an activist and organizer, and decided he wanted to work to make a difference.
“I’m frustrated that a lot of people in the office have been there for so long that they don’t really listen to people organizing outside,” Gauthier said.
McCarty said she started her job as a rep because “I care about people and I want to help.”
During the last legislative session, McCarty worked to address the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of school-aged children and put in place policies to support students with their learning and social-emotional needs. . She worked for the legislature to help first responders with PTSD and supported a provision to prevent employers from discriminating based on age. She has also worked on a bill of rights for older people in long-term care facilities as well as visitation provisions, such as video call visitation. Tackling the opioid crisis is also at the forefront of her work, as she helped establish a peer navigator program, similar to the New London Cares program.
McCarty said “life experience” has been crucial to her work as a representative.
“That experience allowed me to bring that to the legislature,” she said. “I think you can ask both sides of the aisle that I’ve created a reputation for being a bipartisan, willing to listen and get the job done.”
Gauthier, too, wants to address concerns in the areas of health and education, and defend the working class. He is supported by the Independent Party and the Workers’ Families Party.
Gauthier said he wanted to reduce the cost of health care and guarantee it to everyone as a human right. He also wants to work on climate change legislation, but he focuses much of his energy on fighting for the working class. He wants workers to earn a fair wage as well as paid family leave for sickness and the ability for workers to fight for their rights through collective bargaining.
“Nobody should be a working poor,” he said.
In education, Gauthier called for more radical change, as he would like funding for public schools to come from the state level rather than base funding from local property taxes. He said the same issues of inequality persist in the current system and that “much more fundamental change than what is actually being contemplated at this time” is needed.
Gauthier said that ultimately he wants the best strategies in place to “take care of the people of our district, our cities and our state.” He highlighted his time at RTM and said he learned a lot which makes him ready to focus on the needs of the district. He also called for an end to privately funded campaigns and called it “totally unacceptable” for private money to play a role in legislature decision-making.
“We can have disagreements and we can have different ideologies, but we can’t have people in power who operate on the basis of monetary interests buying their interests,” Gauthier said.
On affordable housing, McCarty said it was “necessary in our state” and pointed to the law known as 8-30g which makes it harder for local zoning boards to deny affordable housing developments in within their borders.
She said the law needs to be reviewed for its effectiveness and cited that only 18% of cities have met the minimum requirement target.
“If you’re spending 30% of your income on housing, that’s not affordable housing,” McCarty said.
Gauthier said it’s the city’s responsibility to look into zoning regulations, but noted that funding for affordable housing is needed. He said too many developments are for private purposes and not in the best interests of residents.
“If we want to make housing affordable, we have to decouple it from the profit motive,” Gauthier said. “If housing is all about private profit for private developers, then it’s really hard to get the level of affordable housing we need.”
Both candidates expressed support for the state being a safe haven for women seeking abortions, and both said they were pro-choice.
Gauthier criticized McCarty for voting against House Bill 5414 which would protect people receiving and providing reproductive health care services in the state. McCarty said she voted against it because those providing care would not receive a level of training that she and others were happy with.
She said it would be “misinformation to be put in a camp that denies a woman a choice.”
As for the state’s $4 billion surplus, each candidate wanted to return some of it to the taxpayer while paying off the state debt.
“It’s not neither nor, it’s both and,” explained Gauthier.
“I’m middle of the road on that one,” McCarty said. “I would like to preserve a safety valve that is good enough that we don’t end up in this position (due to more money for pensions).”
When it comes to climate change and the transition to clean, renewable energy sources, both candidates have turned to Dominion Energy’s Millstone nuclear power station in Waterford.
“We know the continued operation of Millstone has actually allowed us to have a clean carbon transition and clean air,” McCarty said, and noted his involvement in securing the latest contract with the power station.
Gauthier said it’s important to make sure “Millstone works for as long as it’s viable and safe to work”. He said both of his parents worked for the power station which now employs nearly 1,500 people.
Gauthier also said he would like to see more done in other clean energy avenues, such as installing solar panels on city-owned buildings and creating more charging station infrastructure to that owning electric vehicles can become a more viable option for people.
Both candidates agreed that Joe Biden won the 2020 election fairly.
Both candidates support alternative voting measures, such as mail-in voting, to reach more of the population.
“We should all encourage having as many people involved in our democracy,” McCarty said. “It empowers everyone.”
Gauthier called for election day to be a holiday so that everyone could vote regardless of their work schedule.
Although Connecticut does not currently offer early voting measures, both candidates were excited to have the issue on the ballot this fall for residents to vote on.
Short term rental
Short-term rentals have become a bigger issue in the area recently. Gauthier said it’s up to each municipality to determine the appropriate ordinances to address growing noise and crime-related issues. He compared it to hotel regulations.
“People who come treat it like a vacation home, it makes sense from their perspective,” he said.
McCarty linked the problem to the lack of affordable housing.
“We need to do more to allow people to have the resources and the funding that they can for the rent that is quite high in this area,” McCarty explained, noting that it will take a bipartisan effort.