By Taylor Skirvin and Eric Stadalnik
New Britain- Republican Mayoral candidate and CCSU graduate Erin Stewart continued to sell her youth as the right answer for the city during the first debate at Trinity on Main Saturday afternoon.
Stressing that the current administration’s tax hikes and wasteful spending was not sustainable for the future, the twenty-six year old GOP nominee asserted that the city needs change and deserves better than incumbent Tim O’Brien.
“I’m different, I’m not a politician, but I’m sick of seeing our city leaders mismanage our future,” said Stewart. “With Mayor Erin Stewart, you’ll always get straight talk; I’m a New Britain girl.”
Stewart, a lifelong New Britain resident, believes that the city government has not been working for the people over the past two years while showing fiscal irresponsibility leading to debt growth.
In contrast, Mayor O’Brien feels that the future is bright for New Britain. According to the Democratic nominee, the deficits and social shortcomings left for him when he took office two years ago have been fixed under his administration.
“There is so much possibility that New Britain has for a better tomorrow. We have accomplished, in my administration, so much in such a short period of time and we have such great possibilities to build in the future,” said O’Brien.
A surplus of $2.9 million in the general fund was announced this past week which O’Brien restated at the debate. The extra money was said to come from payroll reductions and department reconfiguration while not raising taxes, although many audience members jeered the Mayor when he made the statement and Stewart brought her car taxes to refute his claim. Along with the surplus, O’Brien proclaimed that he continues to create jobs in the city as well as supporting local businesses.
A city partnership with CCSU was also discussed in regards to helping the development of downtown New Britain, from moving programs to the Technology and Business Development facility to being a major stop on the CT Fastrak when it is operational.
“I have made a very strong effort to make sure that our city’s arts are properly funded, turning around years of underfunding to be able to make sure that our city is going to be able to have the quality education that our kids deserve and that our city economy will need,” said O’Brien.
Stewart agreed with her opponent in regards to the importance of education as she has been serving on the New Britain Board of Education shortly after finishing school. She believes that she and her fellow B.O.E. members have made substantial changes to quality of life of students.
Although young, Stewart has been around politics much of her life, having been a legislative aide at the Capitol, and growing up with a father in politics. The eight years prior to O’Brien’s term as Mayor, Stewart’s father Tim Stewart was mayor of New Britain.
A second Mayoral debate is scheduled for Tuesday, October 1st at 7:00 P.M. at New Britain High School but O’Brien has turned down a third debate sponsored by the Citizen Property Owners Association, a group that has been highly critical of the Mayor’s policies over the last two years.
An additional debate is being discussed though, according to the Hartford Courant, which would take place at CCSU, jointly sponsored by campus Republicans and Democrats.