Challenger asks for debate against endorsed candidate in 77th

DemocratsBy LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

After recently petitioning herself onto the ballot, Democratic state representative candidate Christy Matthews challenged her Democratic opponent to a debate before next month’s primary election.

Matthews, who received more than the 276 signatures needed to petition onto the ballot, is Laura Bartok’s challenger for the Democratic nod in the 77th district state representative seat. Before the primary that will take place on Aug. 9, Matthews announced in a press release that she has challenged Bartok to a debate so covers can see firsthand whom they are voting for.

“The public really deserves to know what makes us different as candidates in terms of policy,” said Matthews, who was born and raised in Bristol.

In May, Bartok received the Bristol Democratic Town Committee’s endorsement as their candidate to challenge Cara Pavalock for state representative this November.

As of this past Monday, it was still uncertain whether or not the debate would happen.

Bartok said there is a “lack of detail with the invitation,” such as who would host the debate, and when or where a debate would take place.

“Traditionally, there are not debates in primaries like this, but we are still considering our options,” said Bartok, adding that her opponent cannot turn around and demand a debate after disrupting the Democratic Town Committee endorsements meeting with an a capella group and a flash mob.

If there is a debate, Bartok said she hopes to address the issues she hears while knocking on the doors of people living in the 77th District, such as funding for education and ensuring support for senior citizens.

“Bristol families are hurting,” said Bartok. “This most recent budget seems to have hit our most vulnerable citizens the hardest, cutting vital services many rely on to get by.”

After looking through Bartok’s campaign website and social media accounts, Matthews said more details about her opponent’s platform was difficult to find. The millennial candidate said she offers specific policy she would like to enact, such as increasing minimum wage, increasing capital gains tax to be more in line with New York, paid family leave, and more.

“I have very specific things on what I would like to do,” said Matthews, a business student.

With 10 years of experience in and around the state legislature, Bartok said she has an “intimate knowledge of the legislative process and how things work there” and knows what it’s like to advocate for issues from the outside.

Bartok said her work as a legislative analyst for the Commission on Health Equity helped the candidate fine tune her policy and advocacy skills.

“I not only had to follow bills, but had to track the commission’s budget through the budget process and advocate for items in there,” said Bartok.  “The budget is a massive and complicated living document that is constantly changing until it’s on the floor for a vote. Having gone through that process will be of great benefit to me and the district as I make my way through my first session.”

Bartok added that her background in social work is something else she can bring to the capitol if elected. Besides earning both bachelor’s and master degrees in social work, she also earned a focused area of study in working with the elderly, which has always been her passion.

“I have always wanted to focus on helping the elderly,” said Bartok, who volunteered in local nursing homes while growing up in Bristol.

The co-founder of Slow Food CT—a local chapter of an international non-profit, Matthews worked as the marketing manager for Connecticut’s largest co-working space and has studied in Florence, Italy.

From running the West End Association’s social media to painting storefronts in the West End with Bare Bones to being a certified peer educator through Bristol Youth Services, Matthews has given back to the community in a variety of ways. She also has helped organize the West End Association’s Rockwell Park Summer Festival and “Free Concerts Fridays” in Rockwell Park as a free alternative to negative activities teenagers might get into on a Friday night.

“I love this community and I just want to have a chance to make a difference,” said Matthews.

Matthews said a key difference between herself and Bartok doesn’t deal with policy. “I’ve been working for Bristol, and although she’s been doing a lot of really wonderful political work, my heart and soul has been in this town, and that’s what I want to bring up to Hartford,” said Matthews.

“Matthews herself admitted she originally was only running for name recognition,” said Bartok.  “I have been in this race to win and become the 77th District’s next state representative and improve the lives of everyone living here from the moment I decided to run.”

Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com