Lawyer challenges veteran legislator

Sunday, November 2, 2008 5:23 AM EST
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

The race for the state’s 20th Senate District pits a Democrat who has been in the General Assembly for nearly two decades against an independent-turned-Republican running for office for the first time.

State Sen. Andrea Stillman of Waterford is facing a challenge from Waterford lawyer Thomas Simones, who said he became a Republican a few months ago to run for the seat.

Stillman is finishing her second term in the Senate. Prior to that, she served six terms in the state House of Representatives.

Both candidates said they hope to see the legislature start work quickly to tackle the current economic situation. They said they are hoping to improve the health care system, but offered different strategies to do so.

Simones said that he would like to see a “hard cap” on medical malpractice lawsuits.

“You would pass the savings on from the doctors in the industry back to the people,” he said. “It will take a lawyer to come to Hartford to say, ‘Look, it’s time to put hard caps on medical malpractice.’”

Stillman said she favors a plan to allow municipalities and small businesses to access the same health care pool as state employees. A bill to that end passed the legislature in the last session, but Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed it as poorly written, although she said she supports the concept.

“I think we have to figure out how to provide health care for people and provide jobs,” she said. “They’re all intertwined and job retention and creation is going to be crucial to stabilizing Connecticut’s economy.”

She added that she thinks the legislature should look at the level of spending in the state, but should still preserve the “safety net” for residents.

“I think that we have to be careful about the revenues that we send back to our municipalities so that we don’t cause property tax increases especially now,” she said. “The appropriations and the finance committees will be very busy as we put a plan in place for the next two years as to how to tackle these economic challenges.”

Stillman is a member of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.

Simones said that he would like to see the state focus on creating and retaining jobs.

“We could make ourselves a very attractive state to many businesses if we would grab the bull by the horns, make tough decisions and stop this petty partisan bickering and what people try and make class warfare,” he said, adding that he thinks officials should sit down with large employers and make it more attractive for them to stay in Connecticut.

Another top priority, Simones said, is passing a term limits law, and he said he would not serve more than two terms if elected.

Simones, 44, has been a lawyer for 17 years after graduating from the University of Connecticut School of Law. He grew up in Waterford and New London, and is married with three children.

Stillman, 60, owns a small office-supply business in New London with her husband and has two grown children and four grandchildren.

In addition to Waterford, the district includes Old Saybrook, East Lyme, Montville, New London, Old Lyme, and Salem.

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