This is Part 2 of our two-part series on local politics, leading up to Election Day! Below, please see our interview with Joe Angland, Chair of the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee.
To read Part I, our interview with Dan Quigley, Chair of the Greenwich Republican Town Committee, click here.
Can you please share your title and what you do within the Democratic Party in Greenwich, and also your personal/professional background?
I am the Chair of the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee. The Committee is responsible for endorsing Democratic candidates for state and local offices, assisting in their campaigns, and addressing issues of importance to Greenwich Democrats.
I grew up in the Bronx. I did my undergraduate work at M.I.T. and then attended Harvard Law School. I spent my career as a partner in major New York City law firms, where I did both antitrust and trial work. I retired from full time practice three years ago, but I still do some work in response to occasional calls from old clients.
My wife, Ida, and I moved from here from New York City 27 years ago. We raised our three sons (now aged 27 to 31) here, where they all attended the public schools from K through 12.
What are the most important races for Greenwich Moms to be aware of this year? Greenwich has three Representatives in the State House and one in the State Senate, and all four seats are on the ballot this year. Alex Kasser, who two years ago became the first woman ever and the first Democrat in 88 years to be elected to the State Senate in the 36th district, is running for re-election. In the House, Steve Meskers is running for re-election in the 150th District, having become the first Democrat in over 100 years to fill that seat. Hector Arzeno, a Representative Town Meeting member, is running in the 151st District, and Kathleen Stowe, Vice Chair of the Board of Education, is running in the 149th District. These races are critically important because of the following issues, among others:
Education. The Democratic candidates make education a high priority, and they proved it when push came to shove. When Covid-19 hit, the Town decreased by $3 million the education budget that had been recommended about a month earlier. All Democratic candidates opposed the budget cut – Hector Arzeno and Steve Meskers in their votes in the RTM, Kathleen Stowe as Vice-Chair of the BOE, and Alex Kasser in her public statements. In contrast, their Republican opponents either voted for the budget cut or took no position. Public education is not a priority for the Republican candidates the way it is for the Democratic candidates. Greenwich needs representatives in Hartford who recognize that the education of our children is not just another line item in a budget, but a singularly significant item that should be prioritized, even in the hardest of times. In addition to supporting local funding, Senator Kasser introduced and passed the first law in Connecticut to lower student debt. It gives Connecticut companies a tax break for paying down their employees’ student loan debt – which is a win-win for young professionals and their employers. It’s also good for the real estate market and allows young people to buy homes years earlier. For this achievement, Senator Kasser won the endorsement of CT Realtors, the first Democrat to do so in this Senate district.
Senator Kasser and Representative Meskers opposed a plan that would have forced school regionalization. They and the new candidates will work to reduce unfunded mandates, which burden our strained local education budget. They will advocate for state funding using a consistent formula applied fairly for educational cost sharing grants and school building projects. Kathleen Stowe, as Vice Chair of the BOE, appreciates the importance of local control and worked tirelessly this summer to get
Greenwich Public Schools open safely. Hector Arzeno supported education in the RTM and has long been a volunteer tour guide at GHS.
Gun Safety: In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre, most people in Connecticut favor reasonable gun safety laws. As a result of Democratic leadership in Hartford, with the help of a minority of open- minded Republicans, Connecticut has the third strongest gun laws in the nation.
But there are still opportunities to strengthen existing laws, as the Democratic-led legislature did last year when it closed loopholes in safe storage laws, extending safe storage requirements to unloaded firearms and to handguns in unattended cars. As Vice Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Kasser and fellow Democrats voted overwhelmingly to ban ghost guns, the do-it-yourself kits for assembling untraceable guns at home while evading gun laws. By contrast, two-thirds of Republicans voted to keep them unregulated, even though they are being sold to criminals in Connecticut and are considered a major threat by law enforcement.
All of the Democratic candidates favor common-sense regulation to keep guns beyond the reach of dangerous individuals. They are all Moms Demand Action Candidates of Distinction and graded “A” by CT Against Gun Violence. By contrast, no Republican candidate running to represent Greenwich completed either the Moms Demand Action or CAGV candidate questionnaire, hiding from voters their positions on the strong gun laws that give our state the sixth lowest rate of gun deaths in the U.S. In the absence of adequate federal gun safety laws, it is critical that we elect at the state level people committed to protecting state laws and preventing gun violence.
Healthcare/Right to Choose: The Democratic candidates will seek to rein in the excessive costs of healthcare. They understand the need to ensure that affordable insurance is available to all and support legislation that will ensure that it is, especially for those with pre-existing conditions. All the Democratic candidates are endorsed by Planned Parenthood because they are committed to ensuring women’s health and the right to choose. At a debate recently sponsored by the League of Women Voters, all three Democratic House candidates responded with an unequivocal “yes” when asked if they would protect the right to choose under Connecticut law if the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade. In sharp contrast, none of the Republican candidates committed to do so, responding that they needed more time to study the issue, didn’t want to deal with a hypothetical situation, or otherwise evading the question. In these uncertain times, when the Supreme Court may reverse Roe v. Wade, it is more important than ever to elect candidates firmly committed to securing these rights in our state.
Fiscal Policy: All three Democratic House candidates have spent their careers in banking and finance and have just the background that Connecticut needs in these challenging economic times. Senator Kasser is a former Skadden attorney and now serves as Chair of the Banking Committee. Democrats are sometimes accused of being “tax-and-spend”. While untrue with respect to Connecticut Democrats in general, it is especially untrue of these candidates who spent their careers protecting the financial interests of their clients. Their backgrounds, moreover, perfectly equip them for enhancing Connecticut’s economic growth: new businesses, more jobs, better jobs. Senator Kasser is also the Vice Chair of the Transportation Committee, and she introduced legislation (which passed in the Senate) to transform infrastructure financing with an Infrastructure Bank. She also voted against new taxes and introduced a bill to repeal the Estate and Gift Taxes, which would result in a net gain of revenue for the State. Representative Meskers has a key role in the House Energy Committee and has been working diligently to reduce electricity costs in Connecticut, something that will make it more attractive to businesses.
While I have focused on issues specific to Greenwich and Connecticut, I would be remiss not to mention Congressman Jim Himes, who is seeking re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives representing Connecticut’s Fourth Congressional District. Jim has been a model congressman, serving Connecticut with distinction. He has been a leader in the fight to provide affordable and accessible health care, bring home federal dollars to assist businesses and families during COVID, and adopt reasonable gun safety rules. And – in what sadly is unusual these days – he commands the respect of congressmen on both sides of the aisle.
If parents would like to support your party or a particular race, or volunteer at the polls, what is the way to go about that?
They can go to our website, www.greenwichdemocrats.org and click on “Get Involved”.
Is there anything else you’d like Greenwich Moms followers to know?
Every election is important, but this one especially so. With expected changes at the Supreme Court, many rights we take for granted could be reversed. State legislatures are the firewall to protect our rights, including healthcare, education, environmental, gun safety and even the right to vote. As a result, state oversight and regulation will take on a larger role in order to ensure that reproductive rights, gun safety laws, environmental regulation, and fundamental voting rights are preserved. Thus, for the first time in decades, national issues will sadly be on the local ballot. So please vote!
Submitted by: Joe Angland, Chair, Greenwich Democratic Town Committee