By: James Mosher
Norwich, Conn. — The contenders in the 19th State Senate race debated Monday about the proper relationship of government to economic growth with Republican Chris Coutu calling for a rollback in state spending to 2010 levels while Democrat Cathy Osten called for “strategizing” between government and business.
“Connecticut’s one-party government is leading us down the wrong path,” Coutu, a two-term state representative from Norwich, said during a candidates forum at the Otis Library in Norwich sponsored by The Day newspaper. “The sad fact is that government doesn’t create jobs. People do. Enterpreneurs do. Corporate welfare doesn’t create jobs.”
Osten, a three-term Sprague first selectman, said listening to business owners then collaborating is the most effective strategy.
“I will continue to provide community leadership that listens and gets results,” she said to an overflow
crowd in the library’s Community Room. Jobs will be “the focus of everything I do,” Osten said.
“We must challenge spending, bonding and taxes that are crippling small business owners,” he said.
Jobs and fundraising methods were major points of contention during and after their first debate last week. Thursday’s radio debate on “The Lee Elci Show” was not the first debate between Coutu and Osten. The two competed for a General Assembly house seat two years ago, a race Coutu won, and the two interacted several times.
Following Thursday’s hourlong debate, Osten issued a press release contrasting Coutu’s jobs record unfavorably with her own, saying her opponent is misleading the public with “false claims.” The Democrat said the Republican has done “nothing” to bring jobs to Eastern Connecticut while she has “repeatedly worked with elected officials to battle factory closings and pushed legislation benefiting local businesses.”
Coutu’s vote against a “jobs bill” championed by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was criticized by Osten. The Republican, when asked for a response by The Bulletin, said the bill has done little to help Eastern Connecticut, especially small businesses.
“Ms. Osten has a selective memory and trouble with her arithmetic,” Coutu wrote in an email.
Coutu has repeatedly called upon candidates to reject “special interest” donations. He questioned Osten’s claim to be accepting donations “only from individuals” because of her decision to use public financing for her campaign. Osten has accepted $10,000 from the Working Families Party, DemPAC and other special interests, he said.
Osten questioned the propriety of Coutu accepting donations during his aborted run for Congress from political action committees connected to insurers Cigna and WellPoint while serving on the General Assembly’s Insurance Committee.
The two have repeatedly criticized each other’s willingness to debate. Osten said Coutu ducked one-on-one debates during their campaign two years ago. Coutu released a list of at least six debates/forums the two participated in and challenged Osten to debate following her Aug. 14 primary victory over state Rep. Tom Reynolds, D-Ledyard. Osten accepted the challenge and earlier in the season suggested Coutu could participate in at least one debate involving her and Reynolds.
Coutu and Osten are vying to replace state Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, who is retiring after holding the seat for 18 years. Prague endorsed Osten soon after announcing her retirement. The district covers Norwich, Ledyard, Montville, Lisbon, Sprague, Franklin, Lebanon, Columbia, Hebron, and Marlborough.
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