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Wilms aims for return to State House, takes shots at Democrats

Former District 142 State Rep. Fred Wilms, a Republican, announces his intention to challenge State Rep. Lucy Dathan (D-142), Wednesday at the Norwalk Inn.

NORWALK, Conn. — Calling the 2018 election an “aberration,” former State Rep. Fred Wilms made an announcement to Norwalk Republicans on Wednesday: “I’m going to run for my old seat back.”

Wilms lost the District 142 seat, which he held for four years, to Democratic candidate Lucy Dathan. While Wilms calls that election “asymmetrical voting,” Dathan said he’s “really underestimating the intelligence and knowledge of the voters in our district.”

Video by Harold Cobin at end of story

The district, largely in Norwalk but also in part of New Canaan, was represented by Larry Cafero, a Republican, from 1993 to 2015. So it’s had at least 20 years of Republican representation before Dathan, a New Canaan resident who moved there recently from California, took the seat with 60.4 percent of the vote.

Dathan indicated she’s going to seek reelection; Irina Comer is also seeking the Republican endorsement.

 

‘It’s a real shame’

Wilms spoke to about 30 Republican supporters in his Norwalk Inn event, first passionately repeating a theme: “I love Norwalk.”

“I have to say these past 30 years, it’s just been such a privilege for me to be here in Norwalk…. So it bothers me when I see that there’s problems that we face, here, specifically in the city,” Wilms said. “But then more importantly, where the state is… interacting and causing problems in Norwalk and in our lower Fairfield County area. And I just can’t sit by and see that continue to unfold.”

Wilms spoke of his eight years on the Norwalk Board of Estimate and Taxation, touting the fiscal management that kept the City’s triple A bond rating intact through the great recession, “a lot of common sense things that really have put the city in a very, very strong fiscal shape.”

In 2014, when Cafero announced that he was retiring from his legislative office, “I saw that the state was going through a lot of the same problems that the city went through, you know, you look at you look at Connecticut, and it’s really it’s really sad,” Wilms said. “…We got off track. And it’s a real shame because we have so many wonderful qualities still, and I believe that we still can rebound and regroup.”

Connecticut has gone through a “lost decade” and, “We’re the only state that hasn’t recovered from the Great Recession. Can you imagine that?” he said. “I don’t want to sound a little presumptuous. But, you know, when I got to the legislature, I realized I was the only guy there who in banking.”

 

Dems are ‘doubling down’

“When Ned Lamont and the new crew of Democrats got elected, I got the impression that they were like, ‘Oh, we’re, we’re going to be different.’ Yeah, you know, ‘Whatever happened under Dan Malloy, whatever happened in the past, you know, now we’re whole new approach.’ … And then what do I see? Same old, same old. I mean they’re basically, if anything just doubling down.”

Former State Rep. Fred Wilms (R-142) gestures as he talks about Connecticut sales taxes, Wednesday in the Norwalk Inn.

He said, “I mean I’ll give them some credit, they didn’t raise the income tax this time. This time they raised the sales tax. So I guess that’s different. But you know, at the end of the day, the sales tax does hurt working and middle class people.”

Hartford still has the old-style defined benefit pension plans and old-style medical plans, “wages and benefits that are way above what these folks who are in the private sector,” he alleged. “I’ve always said, you know what, there’s a fair way to do this to restructure all these contracts…we did that here in Norwalk.”

“The only one that hasn’t figured that out still are the Democrats in Hartford because they’re under the control of the state employee unions,” he said.

Dathan disagreed.

“As Fred knows, new state employees on tier IV pensions are on a 401K hybrid plan. We can’t unilaterally change the pension plans of already retired former state employees or change contracts that were signed decades ago under previous governors, without putting the State into significant legal exposure.  To be clear, over 70% of the current pension liability is associated with these older pension plans,” Dathan wrote in a late evening email.

As for the sales tax, “I am also surprised to see that Fred is claiming that we ‘raised the sales tax’, when during the last campaign he advocated for ‘closing loopholes’ in the sales tax,” Dathan wrote.

Wilms made that comment during a debate, according to the Wilton Bulletin.

“Closing loopholes” means “expanding what the sales tax is applied to, which is what we did in the budget this year – and again in a responsible manner,” Dathan wrote.

She wrote, “Over my one year in office, I feel I can be proud of what I have accomplished in Hartford. We passed a budget that added over a billion dollars to the rainy day fund, that puts the state of Connecticut in good shape in the event of a recession. We have also passed legislation that helps working families including raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour – and raising it in a way that minimizes the impact to small businesses by spreading it over several years – we passed Paid Family and Medical Leave, protected pre-existing conditions, and we passed measures to move us towards a carbon-neutral economy including authorizing up to 2,000 megawatts of off-shore wind power generation.”

 

‘There’s a real opportunity’

“In terms of what I want to accomplish, well, first of all, I want to bring my unique background, which is banking. I understand the economy here,” Wilms said.

From left, State Rep. Themis Klarides (R-114), House minority leader, State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Republican State Central Committee Secretary Laurie Williamson watch Fred Wilms speak, Wednesday in the Norwalk Inn. Klarides said she misses Wilms’ “financial expertise” in the State House.

“I believe in 2021…the wage contracts come up for renewal. So there’s a real opportunity, if more people who are like-minded like myself and Themis (Klarides) and Gail (Lavielle) and others who are elected, the more of us that are up there… we can start making these kinds of structural changes,” Wilms continued.

“The state does a lot of social services that a lot of the non-profits can do,” and the Department of Motor Vehicles needs to be outsourced, Wilms asserted.

Then there’s the state’s plan to rebuild the Walk Bridge here in Norwalk, which he called a $1.2 billion project although the Connecticut Department of Transportation estimates the cost of the repair of the bridge itself to be $511 million. The $1.2 billion figure refers to the total project, the replacement or repair of all of Norwalk’s railroad bridges and two related projects, the Danbury dockyard and the installation of switches north of the river.

The project will involve the state using eminent domain “over most of South Norwalk to turn it into one big war zone,” Wilms said.

“That is absolutely not the case,” Mayor Harry Rilling said in an evening email. “We have been working very closely with the state to make sure that we do everything we can to mitigate the impact on South Norwalk, East Norwalk and the entire city. We are very confident that the total impact of the Walk Bridge project will be minimal.”

 

 

Wilms touts accomplishments

When Wilms was in the legislature, Norwalk Community College wanted to build a walkway over Richards Avenue, “totally disrupt the character of the neighborhood,” he said. “ And so we worked together and set up a meeting… we were told by (State Sen.) Bob Duff, and all the other Democrats around here, ‘Oh, it’s a done deal, nothing you can do. It’s baked, you know, we’re getting the walkway.’ Well, we sat down and you know what, no walkway. It’s just a matter of just showing up and just, you know, saying hey, there’s got to be a better way.”

He also said there was a plan to make East Rocks Road the detour for “10,000 cars a day, literally 10,000 cars a day. So I said no, and got moved over to Main Avenue.”

Duff did not reply to an email asking for a response.

Wilms said he teamed up with the Rolling Ridge Association to fight the big box store-mixed use development planned for the Elinco site on Main Avenue, thought to be a BJ’s Wholesale Club, and, “We’ve delayed it for two and a half years. I don’t know if they’re going to get in there. But you know, I’m very active in standing up for Norwalk.”

 

 

The 2018 election

What does the term “asymmetrical voting” mean?

“(I)n a midterm election, you have your normal set of voters who show up and vote,” Wilms said. “This time around, we had an extra 2,000 voters who showed up. And they just had one mission in mind: to press the D-line, because they hate Trump. That was it. They didn’t know who I was or who I wasn’t where my opponent was, or wasn’t or anybody else was….this election is going to be I think, more representative of what the district actually believes and wants and feels.”

The District 142 State Rep. contest saw 10,989 votes cast in 2018 while the previous midterm election, in 2014, netted 7,775 votes.

This will be a Presidential election, and “Everybody’s going to show up from both sides. So this election is going to be I think, more representative of what the District actually believes and wants and feels,” Wilms said.

“I’d say that in the context of a 70% turnout Fred is really underestimating the intelligence and knowledge of the voters in our district,” Dathan wrote. “During the 2018 campaign and again through 2019 I have knocked on thousands of doors to speak to my constituents. The overwhelming sentiment I hear is that people now feel they have a legislator who is responsive to their needs and fully engaged in the legislative process. And, as I speak with our voters, I find them to be well informed, not just voting on party lines. My interpretation of 2018 is that the voice of the people was well and truly heard.”

She wrote, “I hope this can be a race about the direction of the State and what we can do to grow our economy and make life better for our people.”

“I’m going to work my butt off,” Wilms said. “I’m the underdog. I’m going to run as the underdog. You know, there may be a primary, that’s fine. I had one before, won 70-30. I’m going to use it as an opportunity. … When I do win, and we will win, and we will have a much stronger showing in Hartford. We’re going to roll up our sleeves and get to work on behalf of Norwalk.”

Fred Wilms resume.doc (1)

Dathan resume per LinkedIn

6 comments

Kevin Kane January 9, 2020 at 8:49 am

Interesting news and hope regardless of who wins (not my district as I moved to Wilton from Norwalk) but someone has to reverse these trends I came across:
The Cato Institute:of the 25 highest tax states 24 have net outflow.
Forbes: 16 states with the highest taxes are all Democratic. The 13 states in the worst fiscal condition all are Democratic except two. The 10 states in the best fiscal condition all are Republican except for Nevada.
CEO Magazine, best states to do business – top ten are all Republican states except one. The worst ten to do business are all Democratic. Of the ten states most people are leaving nine are Democratic.
I fear the failed policies at the state level in CT bleed out to the 168 towns (I believe the 169th – Norwalk, is already feeling the bleed) in CT then there will be no other town to move within CT.

DrewT January 9, 2020 at 10:26 am

I only wish I was able to vote for Fred as I reside in Gail Lavielle’s which I am more then excited to vote for again. Fred has my support and truthfully is the BEST Candidate and should be elected back to his old seat. Fred has one thing in his mind when in Hartford . It’s what’s the best for Norwalk. He doesn’t need photo-ops and PR he’s very well established in his career. But he loves our city and he is probably one of the smartest people in the room at any given time. He knows and understands budgets the. Anyone in Hartford! His expertise is sorely needed as Connecticut has YET gotten out of their own recession and the residents have been taxed to death! And it’s funny how Lucy is proud of that accomplishment. Fred enjoyed his time away but is now needed back in Hartford sooner then later and before Connecticut falls totally off the financial cliff! If you live in Fred’s district the choice is CRYSTAL CLEAR!! ELECT FRED WILMS!

Anna Duleep January 9, 2020 at 3:58 pm

I don’t think Fred realizes that his “asymmetrical voting” explanation for getting voted out of office in 2018 is actually more helpful to *Lucy’s* 2020 campaign than to his. Consider the logic: by his own admission, in 2018 there were 2,000 “extra” voters who hated Trump so much they voted Democrat all the way down to the bottom of the ticket: State Representative. Fred says these 2,000 “extra” voters “didn’t know who [he] was or who [he wasn’t]” on Election Day 2018. But all 2,000 people Fred discounts because they are “extra” must have lived in 142 or they would not have received a ballot with Fred’s name printed at the bottom. In other words, these were 2,000 *constituents* who had no idea who Fred “was…or wasn’t” after he had served 4 years as their State Representative. Let’s continue with Fred’s argument. He claims 2020 will be “more representative of what the district ACTUALLY believes and wants and feels.” [emphasis mine] Why? Because according to Fred, this year “[e]verybody’s going to show up from BOTH sides.” [emphasis mine] In other words, some significant number of people who *would* vote for Fred decided not to show up at all in 2018, not even to vote just in the State Rep box for Fred.

Alternate theory of 2018: Lucy Dathan knocked on the doors of at least 2,000 people who had been ignored by their State Representative to such a degree they didn’t even know who he “was…or wasn’t” after he’d been in office for 4 years. These voters chose the woman who cared enough to ask what they “believe[d], want[ed], and [felt]” about their district over the man who still considers them “extra” voters. Fred depressed the turnout of his own base by failing to give these voters a compelling reason to show up and vote for him.

Not everything can be blamed on national politics. And NO constituent who cares enough to vote should be considered “extra,” especially by their former State Representative.

Bryan Meek January 10, 2020 at 7:46 am

@Kevin. What is worse is the fact that blue states from Maine to Maryland have all been growing since the last recession, except for one. CT. All of those states are growing and we’re shrinking. What did they do differently? They cut taxes and spending. We did the exact opposite with the two largest tax increases in history under Malloy and again more taxes with Lamont with tolls on the horizon. We’ve used creative accounting (counting lost casino jobs reduction in government workforce, to name one) to gloss over the problems, but residents and businesses aren’t buying the BS. The problem is so plain as day a pre schooler can see it, but for some reason the Democrats in Hartford are blind to the reality.

This election will come down to Tolls

On tolls,….

We collect gas taxes at the pump and we also collect taxes from trucks who don’t even purchase fuel in CT under IFTA – International Fuel Tax Agreement. We collect property taxes on cars, electric and hybrid too. They could raise the IFTA rates tomorrow and get the revenues from trucks they need. The revenue collection systems are already in place. All they would have to do is tweak the rates. Tolls are simply about creating more government.

On Dathan and Tolls.

Write it down>. Her caucus, if they have the votes will allow her to vote against tolls for appearance. They do this when they have the votes to protect their caucus members in the target districts. And make no mistake, New Canaan, Darien, Norwalk, Westport, Wilton….we are in the target site of Hartford. This isn’t about revenue, which they can get in myriad other ways. It’s about punishing this part of the state because the money is here and they want it. Period. They won’t stop until the Golden Goose is dead. They could care less about the side effect tolls will have on this area of the state as Wazers will destroy neighborhood quality of life zig zagging through our towns to get around tolls and traffic. It’s already happening now with Waze and tolls will be the nail in the coffin.

The bottom line is we need creative ideas to turn this thing around. Tolls are possibly the 2nd oldest form of taxation known to mankind. I think we can do better.

John ONeill January 10, 2020 at 11:00 am

Fred:
Can you enlighten us on what you would do to support ELL programs? Would you agree the lack of support from the state is a disgrace? What do the Republicans plan to do to rectify the situation? — Please don’t mention 2017 changes to ECS formula. The impact to Norwalk on that is negligible.

Tom Belmont January 15, 2020 at 10:59 am

The old saying is that “all politics is local”. But It can’t be if Hartford controls everything; money and regulations. And if it controls these things then it controls the politics, and the politics is all Democrat. The Democrat politician today must conform to the Democrat Party and it is not the party of yesterday. It is a Radical Party and from the ‘top’ down the marching orders are clear; Trump and his voters must go. The Impeachment debacle is on with no High Crime or misdemeanor and it is the premiere event that proves the Democrat Party has lost its heart, mind and soul. The Republicans in the State of Connecticut have no choice but to reject the new Radical Politics, and embrace the opportunity of reason and common sense. People hear common sense and reason and it will help, of course, gathering voters to win elections. Without winning elections there will be no changes to Connecticutitus; a self inflicted illness that if left without attention will remain and fester. Look at the once great cities of California and New York to see what they’ve become all run by Democrats. So Republican Candidate!!! Talk common sense and reason…forget the details of city problems. You can’t win stepping on all the stones. You have only 2 feet. Beat the drum all people hear. The Radical Left is Sick. Take advantage of it.

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