Congressional candidates from CT’s most unequal district weigh in on disparity

Republican Dan Debicella (left) and Democratic Congressman Jim Himes at a debate in Norwalk

Republican Dan Debicella (left) and Democratic Congressman Jim Himes at a debate in Norwalk

The two candidates running for Congress in the Connecticut district with the widest economic disparity talked in a debate last week about what they’d do to close that gap. Democratic incumbent Jim Himes and Republican challenger Dan Debicella both agreed that the disparity is a problem, but they took different approaches to how they’d handle the issue.

Himes said the disparity is clear as you travel from affluent towns like Greenwich and Darien to Bridgeport, “where an awful lot of people are living below the poverty line.”

Himes said regardless of what party people are in, “we feel that that’s not quite right.”

Here’s Himes’ full response:

Himes said the key to addressing disparity in the region is education.

“We need to fix the failing schools that unfortunately are keeping our young people in communities of need back, that are not offering them the kind of opportunity to live the American dream.”

Himes said he’s glad the country is having a good, if antagonistic, conversation about how to solve the education issue.

Himes said he supports raising the minimum wage. And he said it’s a problem that tax benefits tend to help only people at the top of the income level.

“We ought to try to restructure our tax code and the subsidies that we give as a government to actually help those people who need help and who are struggling today.”

Debicella said the disparity question was very personal to him, because he grew up in Bridgeport, with a father who was a police officer and a mother who was a secretary. He said he’s the first in family to go to college.

Here’s Debicella’s full reply:

Debicella said the American Dream is threatened for too many families.

“This is an area where we have to stop talking about income inequality and start talking about social mobility.”

Debicella is proposing what he calls enterprise zones in areas of Bridgeport, Norwalk and Stamford that are the most in need of jobs, where businesses wouldn’t be charged any federal or state taxes, and the federal government would pay local property taxes.

He also said we need to reform education.

“Specifically we should be taking the lessons of charter schools and bringing them into the public schools.”

Debicella is also proposing what he’s calling urban innovation zones in education “that allow local boards of education , teachers and parents, to determine things like curriculum for themselves, rather than having some bureaucrat or politician tell them what to do.”

He said we need to stop what he called “scare tactics” and start talking about the American dream again.

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