There’s a bit more than a month left before elections, and local Republicans are counting on political newcomer Michael DeGrego’s tenacity to get him noticed in a race against incumbent Democrat Gayle Slossberg in the 14th state district Senate race.
Slossberg has a lot of local ties, and she’s garnered considerable attention over the years, first as a Milford alderman and then as a state senator.
DeGrego, fairly new to Milford and city politics, doesn’t have the name recognition, but he’s showed up at as many local events as he could over the past few months and is pushing the envelope on getting himself known.
First elected in 2004, Slossberg was re-elected in 2010 for her fourth term as the state Senator representing Milford, part of Orange and the southern half of West Haven — and now part of Woodbridge.
Her state website describes her as follows: “As chair of the Government Administration & Elections Committee, Senator Slossberg has been a strong voice for transparent and ethical state and municipal government and was the driving force behind comprehensive contracting reform in the State of Connecticut.
“As co-chair of the Commission on Enhancing Agency Outcomes, Senator Slossberg led the panel toward identifying more than $450 million in potential savings in the state’s budget as well as recommended ways to streamline state agency functions and improve efficiency.”
Slossberg said her priority in the Senate is to represent her constituents when there is a problem.
“These need to be researched and followed up,” Slossberg said. “You address all of them. I don’t want to pass one person off, so I follow through.”
People call or email with a number of problems and concerns, and sometimes the remedy is to create legislation.
She recalls submitting proposed legislation for Michele Ciancola of Orange, whose son died on an athletic field because there was no defibrillator available. She put the bill through three weeks after deadline, and then pushed for its passage.
“It was important for me to be able to call the mother and tell her it had gotten through,” Slossberg said.
Her goals, she said, are to continue working to get the economy moving forward. On jobs, she said, “We’re not there yet.” There’s been work done, from streamlining regulations, creating tax incentives and loan and grant programs to helping businesses, but more needs to be done, she said.
Slossberg didn’t vote in favor of the state budget, saying she “just didn’t think it was the way to go to move the state forward.”
A fiscal conservative, she said she wants to work on ways to lower costs for doing business in the state and streamline waste.
Close to home, Slossberg has fought next to veterans for additional benefits; she found a loophole in the state regulation regarding a proposed recycling facility at 990 Naugatuck Avenue that residents opposed. “And we closed it,” she said of that loophole. She worked closely with Schick, the city’s largest employer, on legislation the company said was important for continued growth; and she said she stays on top of education and cost sharing dollars.
“Over the last two years there has been an increasing amount of money that’s come to the 14th District,’ Slossberg said. “It’s a never-ending battle. We still have a lot of work to do.”
Democratic Town Committee Chairman Rich Smith said Slossberg is more than a politician.
“At a time when many of us are disillusioned by the empty rhetoric of politics, our spirits should be buoyed by someone like Gayle,” Smith said. “She possesses the rare combination of talents, being a policy wonk who can sit for hours, days and weeks poring over and tweaking the nuances of legislation but also being able to sit in a constituents’ living room empathetically listening to their issues and fighting to make their lives better in any way she can.
“Everywhere I go, people know and love Gayle,” Smith added. “They know her to be an independent thinker, untethered by blind partisanship or political Party and that is what people want so much from their representatives.”
On his website, Republican challenger Mike DeGrego says he is a “man of the people.”
He came to Milford seven years ago from Mt. Vernon, N.Y., where he was a police detective.
“I was raised Roman Catholic and have carried a strong faith with me to this day,” DeGrego said. “I have dedicated my life to the service of my country and my community and I feel compelled to ‘come out of retirement’ and try to do something to stop the madness going on in Hartford.”
He said spending in Hartford is out of control and that ever-increasing taxes and spending are “strangling our businesses, choking our families, and forcing our young and old to leave this beautiful state looking for a more sensible place to live.”
He believes people are fed up and that small business owners are feeling the brunt of the pain.
He said there must be more incentives for people to hire workers, and he said he strongly opposes legislation that allows same-day voter registration.
DeGrego said he got into politics in 1970 after hearing James Buckley speak at Westchester Community College, after which he registered as a Conservative. Buckley, he said, “expressed the view of his parents and grandparents,” and part of that was that children of the Depression endured the most and complained the least.
Later DeGrego became an Independent, and then a Republican.
As a former police detective, he said, one of his strengths has been diffusing situations and getting people to work together.
DeGrego has served in the Air Force, was a volunteer firefighter, served on the city’s inland/wetlands commission, and is a certified teacher.
“I say enough is enough,” DeGrego said. “I want to sit in that state Senate seat and say no to the one-party rule that is driven by self-interest and favoritism. I have never run for office before; my only interest in Hartford is to represent the hard-working citizens of this district.”
“Mike DeGrego has shown himself to be one of the most hard working, instinctive campaigners in recent memory. As you know, this is his first run for elective office. But don’t mistake him for a rookie when it comes to working hard and listening intently. Mike DeGrego is everywhere – greeting commuters at the train station early in the morning, walking neighborhoods, knocking on doors, participating in community activities, and listening to voters all over the district.
Republican Town Committee Chairman Lisa DiLullo said DeGrego has a number of strengths.
“I think his strengths are his ability to genuinely relate to people, to process how their needs might be best met, and to bring creative solutions to problems,” DiLullo said. “His positions are very clear and, in this economy, I know that is a strength. Since his record of public service was built outside of elective office, Mike DeGrego is beholden to no political group or leader. I’ve found Mike to be a man of “old fashioned” principles: Faith, family and hard work form the foundation of who he is.”