Updated, 2:24 p.m.: Typos fixed at the request of Travis Simms; 6:49 a.m.: Copy edits
NORWALK, Conn. – District 140 Democrats decide with a primary election Tuesday who will be their candidate for State Representative.
Human Relations Commissioner Colin Hosten, who is a newcomer to electoral politics, is challenging Common Council member Travis Simms (D-District B), who won endorsement at the Democratic caucus.
The winner of Tuesday’s primary will face Republican John Flynn in the general election. All three are vying for the seat held by State Rep. Bruce Morris (D-140), who is retiring.
NancyOnNorwalk posed questions to both Democratic candidates via email. Here is their basic information:
Travis Simms, 47, lists his occupation as a professional athlete and trainer.
Colin Anthony Hosten, 36, lists his occupation as Fairfield University lecturer.
Now the Q&A:
Why are you running for State Rep?
“I grew up in Norwalk and I chose to remain and raise my children here. I am passionate about Norwalk and the people who live here. I have strong ties to the community I represent and I am looking forward to the increase in territory and learning the needs of the 140th District. The campaign trail on this larger scale has been an eye-opening experience.
“I am running for State Representative because I’ve learned, after my nearly 10 years on the Norwalk Common Council and from talking to people in Norwalk at-large, that many of the ills that face Norwalk tax payers cannot solely be solved at the local level.”
“One of the things I’ve loved most about living in South Norwalk for the past ten years is that we have some of everybody living here. We are truly diverse in culture and background, and we need a State Representative who will fully embrace that diversity. It’s too easy and counter-productive to focus on divisive issues, like race, or ethnicity, or how long someone has lived here. I’m running to be the Democrat who unites our diverse district around the goals we all have in common.
“We all want to raise our families in a neighborhood that feels safe and welcoming. We are all concerned about being able to continue to afford to live here as the city grows. We all want to invest in the future of Norwalk. Maybe I’m biased as an educator and as the son of career teachers, but I believe in the power of public education. When we invest in our schools, we are investing in generations to come. And we can also all agree that we need to invest in our public infrastructure in Norwalk; not just roads and sidewalks, but the infrastructure to help our local and minority-owned businesses thrive.
“Let’s work together to make Norwalk the 21st century city it can be. If we focus on these goals that we all have in common, with a State Representative who makes sure that each and every one of our voices is being heard in Hartford, I am confident that we can make real progress for our community. I’m running so we can build a better community together.”
If elected, what life experiences will you draw on in serving the public?
“I have spent most of my life defying the odds. I come from humble means and I’m grateful that my parents instilled in me the importance of perserverance and resiliency. Also inspired by long-time civil leaders, Other Brown, Jr. and Mary ‘Bea’ Brown, I learned to advocate for Norwalk’s poor and minority communities and I grew to want to serve them. As I grew in and out of the boxing and political arenas, I met people from all walks of life. I watched perspective. While many people can view the same thing(s) differently, I want to be part of the solution that brings those perspectives together for the greater good. In increasing my territory and serving the needs of the 140th district, I won’t go down without research and a without a good fight.”
“I’ve been inspired throughout this campaign by the passion and energy that I’ve encountered in voters as I knock on doors and meet people. The things we see happening on the national stage and throughout the world may be discouraging, but we have the opportunity in Connecticut to make sure the people in our state are protected from those kinds of injustices. That’s the only way we can make progress, is by working together.
“As our State Representative, I will draw on my natural instinct to collaborate with others, both at the state level and at the municipal level. Having been endorsed by many of our city leaders, and continuing to forge new relationships with state and national leaders, I look forward to working with every level of government on thoughtful solutions and problem-solving for our community.
“As an educator, I place great value not just in helping people to understand issues better, but in making sure that I, myself, am also continually learning and growing. This is not a one-man or one-woman job. Our public servants should always remember that we serve the public, and that sometimes the best ideas and solutions can come from listening to our constituents’ needs. We face some very real challenges here in the 140th District. Many of our neighbors are hurting, and we cannot deny the legacy of discrimination that has shut too many voices out for too long. I’m a minority in more ways than one. I know what it’s like to have to struggle and persevere for our rights. And that’s exactly what I intend to do as our State Representative. I will be a tireless advocate to make sure that we in Norwalk get what we deserve.
“My parents were public servants. It is a tradition that I respect deeply, and I look forward to being a strong advocate for my community. Sometimes half the battle is just stepping up to serve. You have to show up, and you have to show up consistently.”
What are the issues you’d like to see State Government address in the 140th District?
“While there are several issues that I’m brushing up on – budget deficit, highway tolls, gas taxes, pensions, bump stocks on guns, gambling, transportation, and legalizing marijuana, to name a few —if I am understanding constituents correctly, I will be focusing on the three “e’s”.
“There are some very important state-level initiatives that we can take to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people here in Norwalk.
“1) The question of affordability is a big one for many of us. I’m proud that Norwalk is growing, at a time when many towns in Connecticut are struggling to grow. But I also want to make sure that we don’t lose our diversity, our sense of who we are — that we don’t lose what makes Norwalk Norwalk. As our State Representative, I would support smart, sustainable development that prioritizes an affordable and inclusive Norwalk. These are exactly the priorities that the Working Families Party supports, and I’m proud that they have endorsed me in this race.
“2) I’m also particularly passionate about public education. I know that when we invest properly in public education, we’re investing in long-term economic growth.
“3) When it comes to our wallets, I also want to protect and expand access to affordable healthcare, which is under attack at the federal level.
“4) Further on the topic of healthcare, I also think we need to address gun violence as the public health epidemic that it is. Having been named a Gun Sense Candidate of Distinction by Moms Demand Action, I know that common-sense gun safety measures make our communities safer and save lives.
“5) In fact, I think we should be reviewing and rethinking our entire approach to criminal justice. We spend incredible amounts of time and resources prosecuting people for non-violent, low-level crimes, when what they really need is medical help.
“6) And, not least, we need to take a responsible approach to environmental sustainability at the state level, especially in a coastal city when it comes to our changing climate, and the wellbeing of our families who live near South Norwalk’s industrial zones.
“7) Overall, my goal is be a champion for human equality in Connecticut. The fact is, when we make it a point to protect the most vulnerable people in our community, including our working class and our seniors, we strengthen legal protections for society as a whole.”
What will you advocate on each of those issues?
- “Increase ECS funding – I would work strategically with Norwalk delegation in a bi-partisan manner and other municipalities who share the same issues.
- “Economic development – serving on the Commerce committee will give me the opportunity to partner with local community leaders and local businesses to create jobs for people who live in the city.
- “Energy/Environmental issues – I will work to ensure energy and environmental justice laws are implemented, and protect and preserve open space.”
“On the question of affordability, I will advocate for incentives to increase the percentage of affordable housing in new residential construction, as well as greater incentives to ensure that big public development projects actually help local communities through employment quotas and other economic benefits. I will work on legislative ways to help Norwalk find other sources of revenue, so we can avoid squeezing our residents with property taxes. And I said before, I will never stop advocating for Norwalk to get our fair share of funding from the state.
“The question of our public schools is simple: no child should be robbed of educational opportunities because of his or her ZIP code. As our State Representative, I will reject the political fatigue in Hartford and push for an ECS funding formula that is actually funded equitably, and that prioritizes best practices in public education, without penalizing lower-income families. We’re about to build the first new public school in Norwalk in almost fifty years. It’s not a complete solution, but it’s an important step, and we need a Representative who we can rely on to consistently support such educational initiatives.
“When it comes to healthcare, we must make it clear that healthcare is not a privilege, and corporations should not be allowed to make unchecked profits based on people’s health. Besides protecting and expanding important facets of the Affordable Care Act, I would be a strong advocate for adding a stronger public insurance option, effectively expanding Medicaid to offer relief and security to millions of workers, and also to help lower drug prices overall. The fact is, the more we can encourage health habits early in life, the more we can avoid costly medication and procedures later in life.
“As for gun violence and criminal justice reform, we have an opportunity at the state level to review and update our penal code so that we’re focusing primarily on rehabilitation, rather than just punishment or profiteering.
“I’m particularly passionate about environmental sustainability, as someone who lives in South Norwalk. Minority communities, especially, always seem to be fighting to keep our kids healthy when it comes to pollution. As our State Representative, I intend to advocate for more environmental safeguards, including adding more incentives to push for renewable energy, and tightening regulations around air, land, and water pollution, as well as codifying a broad state policy on fracking. The best part is that this kind of forward thinking can make Connecticut’s economy more competitive in the 21st century. That way we can actually focus on making sure we don’t put undue burdens on our most vulnerable citizens. For example, I’d love to expand the eligibility for municipalities to provide senior tax relief, and get rid of the state income tax on social security and other retirement benefits.
Increasing state funding to Norwalk would require decreasing state aid to other municipalities. How would you overcome resistance among other state representatives to substantially increasing state funding to Norwalk?
“This is a very challenging question and I thank you for asking it. It gives me a chance to further think this through. It goes back to perspective. Building relationships and understanding perspectives is the key to getting my new associates to understand that just because Norwalk is on the gold coast doesn’t mean it has gold coast money. Norwalk has a reputation for understanding how to partner. I heard there was a show called ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ which was just a little before my time. We’d have to find something worth them giving up their share.
“I’d seek to serve on the Education committee and work with other elected leaders in a bi-partisan manner – with Terrie Wood and Gail Lavielle for instance – to break down the system of winners and losers. Their constituency is different from that of the 140th district, but they have been champions for education. I have to give them that and I want to learn all perspectives so I can see where the constituents I want to serve fit in and how to make this work . Tough question…. but I think the education committee would be a start.”
“With deepest respect, there is a flaw in the premise of your question. This kind of zero-sum thinking is what ends up pitting communities against one another, fighting for a bigger piece of the pie, instead of working together to grow the whole pie for everyone. This is how I intend to work with my fellow State Representatives to make sure that not only Norwalk gets what we deserve, but that we grow our state economy in a forward-thinking way that creates more overall funding for the future.
“Some of these initiatives — investing in public education and infrastructure, protecting healthcare, and advocating for human rights — may seem challenging, but the fact is, they are important steps toward attracting more families and businesses to our state, and growing our local economies. And I believe we can do it here in Connecticut. I have faith in us. But it takes sending the right, progressive leaders to Hartford to make it happen.
“I’m proud to have been endorsed by organizations like Planned Parenthood Votes! CT, and by Run for Something, which is a group that identifies young, diverse progressives with the heart and hustle to bring grassroots, community-led thinking to local government. I look forward to joining a caucus of similarly progressive representatives in November to work together on a legislative agenda that grows Connecticut’s economy while also easing the pressure on our working class. We can do it. But we can only do it together.”
District 140 is a legislative district, encompassing at least part of three municipal districts. Most if the 140th District is in the municipal District B, with about one-third of it in District A and a small part of it in District E. A map of the legislative districts is available here. Go to the State website here to see where your polling place is, or use the City website’s Registrars’ page.
NancyOnNorwalk readers can also review previous stories to learn more about the candidates. Here is a list, in chronological order:
- Simms announces bid to unseat Morris
- Morris no fan of would-be replacements
- Hosten qualifies for Citizens’ Election Program
- Simms wins District 140 caucus; Hosten promises to primary (has video of the two candidates making brief pitches)
- Norwalk political roundup: Church expansion, Hosten HQ, SoNo aesthetics (video of Hosten)
- Norwalk political notes: Norwalk bonds, Norwalk BoE and an endorsement for Hosten
- Norwalk political notes: Redevelopment plans new lawyer, Planned Parenthood endorses Hosten
- Norwalk election roundup: Dems split in 140; Republicans hold presser on tolls (Hosten endorsed by Yerinides and Melendez)
- Norwalk election notes: Morris endorses Simms; D’Amelio and Flynn promote campaigns via Facebook
- Checking in on Norwalk’s Common Council (Simms attendance record on Council)
There’s also information available through these NoN tags: