Westport candidates talk education, abortion, jobs

WESTPORT — The candidates looking to represent Westport at the state level seem to differ most on education and jobs, while agreeing it’s a woman’s right to choose when it comes to abortion.

The six candidates recently shared their thoughts on various stances at the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce candidate forum.

Republican Toni Boucher and Democrat Ceci Maher are the candidates for the state’s 26th Senate District, Democrat Jonathan Steinberg and Republican Alma Sarelli are the candidates for the state’s 136th House District and Republican Nicole Hampton and Democrat Dominique Johnson are the candidates for the state’s 143rd House District.

Education seems to be the biggest difference among the candidates, particularly parental involvement.

“Connecticut needs a family-first act to ensure that (parents) are front and center when it comes to decisions about their family’s education and healthcare,” Sarelli said. “Parents should make the first decisions for their children.”

Steinberg said Westport is ranked the top high school in the state and the teachers were ranked second in the state.

“People come to this town because of our schools,” he said. “Parents have plenty of opportunity for input, via the PTA, via the board of ed meetings, this is a distraction brought on by a national, conservative organization, dedicated [to] the idea of ​​dividing parents and scaring them.”

Hampton said parent input was a real issue and there were a variety of things her child could do in the state without her consent.

Johnson said she has a doctorate in education and Westport should be proud of its education.

“We should value our teachers and what they give to our community,” Johnson said.

Maher said parents do have control and input, such as how parents can opt their children out of health classes.

Boucher said she was a high school language teacher after she graduated college.

“One of the best ways to kind of mute a lot of the criticism would be, basically, put the curriculum online, so parents have access to it and they know what’s going on in the schools,” Boucher said.

Maher and Boucher have also disagreed on gun legislation with Maher saying Boucher wouldn’t further gun control if elected and Boucher saying she worked to tighten gun laws after the Sandy Hook shooting and more needs to be done, like limiting how many guns can be purchased in a month.

Hampton and Johnson differed on the economy with Hampton suggesting small businesses get tax relied.

“Even during the pandemic, our small businesses were ordered to stay closed while the Walmarts and Home Depots of the world were allowed to stay open. I think it should be equal access for all businesses,” she said.

Johnson also mentioned tax credits for small businesses, as well as money from the American Rescue Plan Act and other federal money to help businesses.

“I advocated successfully to make sure that we use some of our ARPA funding to infuse these businesses, coming out of the pandemic,” Johnson said, adding she also advocated for a small business development center in Norwalk.

While all of the candidates supported a woman’s right to choose abortion, some disagreed on whether that was under threat in Connecticut.

“We are not yet safe in Connecticut,” Steinberg said. “Unless we enshrine it in the Constitution, we are at risk.”

Hampton said a woman’s right to choose isn’t in jeopardy in Connecticut.

“It’s in our state’s statute,” Hampton said. “I’m a mother, I chose to be. Everybody has a right to be able to choose their pathway.”

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