By MIKE CHAIKEN
Democrat Laura Bartok, who lost the race in Bristol’s 77th district in 2016 to Republican incumbent Cara Pavalock D’Amato, wants a rematch.
Bartok filed the paper work to be the Democratic torchbearer in November. Former city council Kevin Fuller also has filed paperwork to run in November. The 77th district Democratic committee will have to choose which candidate goes forward. A primary is a possibility of the unselected candidate opts not to concede to the party’s choice.
After losing to the incumbent two years ago, Bartok said she did not take the decision to run again “lightly.”
“(The decision to run again) has been on my mind since the results came in the night of the 2016 election,” said Bartok, who is currently working as Outreach Coordinator for the House Democrats Office at the General Assembly. “Although my general election bid was unsuccessful in the end, the experience of the overwhelming primary win and the close loss in the general was a great chance for me to meet many new people, learn a lot about myself, and to get to know my community and its needs even better.”
Bartok explained, “I am running for state representative again because the reasons that I ran the first time haven’t changed. Bristol’s representation at the Capitol is pretty lackluster, and my opponent is part of the problem up there. Saying or voting ‘No’ is the easy way out. Actually sitting down and finding a way to get things done despite differences in opinion and world view is leadership.”
Bartok said she wanted to join the conversation in Hartford because “There are too many lawyers and career politicians up at the state capitol. We need more people with Human Service backgrounds who know how the cuts that are being made will actually affect the people that will be directly impacted by them.”
Bartok has a master’s degree in social work from the University of Connecticut.
Bartok said, as a social worker, “I have a great ability to listen, dissect a situation, and problem solve.”
“The rest of my experience in the political field (she has worked as a district aide for then U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy and as a legislative analyst) will help me navigate the complicated system with ease and use my existing connections on all sides of the aisle —Republicans and Democrats, legislators and staff— to get things done,” said Bartok.
If she goes to Hartford as the representative of the 77th, Bartok said, “One thing I know I can bring to the table is making sure that we pay attention to the human impact of legislation, not just the dollar and cents impact. Last year, the legislature made cuts to both the Renter’s Rebate and Medicare Savings Plan programs, both programs that help support seniors living on a fixed income. Within days of making those cuts, calls from constituents voicing their overwhelming concerns were coming in.”
“We need more legislators with human services backgrounds to make sure we are not just number crunching,” said Bartok.
“In addition to my social work training,” Bartok said, “I am a great ‘outside the box’ thinker.”
In Hartford, Bartok continued: “I want to focus on education at all stages – not only make sure that all kids have access to a quality education that prepares them for a bright future, but I also want to make sure that our higher education and technical programs are properly tailored to train students for the needs of Connecticut employers.”
Bartok also said when in Hartford she wants to reduce the “stigma around mental health, and making sure we have programs that are properly funded and running efficiently.”
In terms of how her presence in Hartford will benefit the city, Bartok said, “When I ran two years ago and would tell people, who work in and around the Capitol, who I was running against – the response was usually, ‘Who?’ … The only time I have seen my opponent get up and speak on the floor in the House Chamber was to ask for a moment of silence…I’ve been in and around the building on different sides of issues for more than 10 years, cultivating relationships and getting to understand the whole process of how legislation works.”
In terms of her ties to the community of Bristol, Bartok said, “I am Bristol. My family is Bristol. My parents have spent their entire married lives here. They have always been very involved in the community… Getting involved in politics mostly for issues at first, but then more party specific activities like the Democratic Town Committee while running campaigns, has helped me understand our local political structure.”
“As a social worker,” Bartok said, “I know how important our social service programs are. I know that unfortunately any budget ‘compromise’ will most likely come with some cuts to services. My experience listening… as well as my own work advocating for issues will help me to make sure that the human impact of every cut is carefully considered.”