20-year-old Matt Gaynor gets party backing to run for state Senate

Republican Matt Gaynor, one of the youngest politicians to run for state Senate, says he wants to make Connecticut more affordable to everyone, especially senior citizens.

Gaynor, 20, received his party’s backing Monday night at the West Shore Fire Department in West Haven to run for the 14th state Senate seat against incumbent Democrat Gayle Slossberg.

Gaynor just finished his sophomore year at Central Connecticut State University, where he is majoring in economics.

He serves on the Milford Government Access Television advisory board, and he is director of a children’s clubhouse in Laurel Beach, where he lives.

“Connecticut is first in everything we should be last in and last in everything we should be first in,” Gaynor said in his acceptance speech Monday night. “If you breathe in Connecticut you can feel the overbearing and overtaxing state government.”

Maureen Mauro gave a short nomination speech for Gaynor, praising him for being “enthusiastic about furthering the agenda of the GOP.”

Paul Beckwith, Republican Town Committee chairman, said he is pleased to see a young, enthusiastic Milfordite who wants to go to Hartford.

The 14th District state seat represents Milford, Orange and parts of West Haven and Woodbridge.

“He knows what Connecticut faces,” Beckwith said, adding that the young GOP member will give Slossberg a respectful run.

Beckwith said Slossberg “dropped the ball” on issues like 8-30g, the state’s affordable housing law, which Beckwith said needs some adjustments.

“This is an issue that will impact local neighborhoods,” Beckwith said.

Gaynor said he’s had conversations with Slossberg about his candidacy, and while he said he doesn’t plan to run a negative campaign, he thinks the district needs stronger leadership.

“Connecticut’s problem is not only its lack of jobs but also its severe lack of career opportunities,” Gaynor said. “Recent college grads are forced to leave their homes in search of careers in other states.”

He said senior citizens are ignored.

“Connecticut is consistently ranked one of, if not the worst, state to retire in,” Gaynor said. “The best way to ensure our seniors can retire here is to lower the obscenely high cost of living. We need to make Connecticut more affordable to everyone, especially our senior citizens.”

He said he will fight against waste in the state budget and work to bring down debt, lower taxes and spur economic growth. He said he also will focus on educational reforms and returning authority to local boards of education.

The age issue

While Gaynor’s campaign spokesman said Gaynor is the youngest person running for the state Senate, Gaynor said age shouldn’t be the benchmark for judging his qualifications.

“If people promise not to bring up my age,” Gaynor joked, “I’ll promise to never be this age again.”

Former Republican state Sen. Tom Scott said he understands that some people may give Gaynor a hard time about his age: Scott was 21 years old when he sought the position of state senator for the 14th District in 1980. He was 22 when he was sworn in as the youngest senator and started what would become five terms in that position.

Age was a bigger issue then because Scott faced competition from within the Republican Party for the seat, and he and his supporters found themselves answering age questions. He said they used humor and substance in their responses.

“The thing is, if you like the way things are in Hartford, keep electing the same old people,” Scott said. “You won’t change Hartford unless you change the people.”

Democrat’s view

“Matty is a good kid, a neighbor of mine, and I’m thrilled to see him developing an interest in government and elective politics, I wish more young people like him would,” said Democratic Town Committee Chairman Richard Smith.

“However, if I were advising him, I might tell him to slow down, he’s getting a little ahead of himself. I would tell him to finish school and work to gain better understanding of the process and the issues before running for office.”

Smith said that choosing to take on an “incredibly popular state senator like Gayle with half-baked claims of her not doing enough for her district” is ill-advised.

Smith said that since Slossberg was elected to Hartford, education funding from the state to Milford increased by 19%. He said she’s secured millions of dollars in grants for important projects in the city, including funding for Platt Technical School, Boys and Girls Village, the YMCA, Bridges, Silver Sands State Park, Beaverbrook Waste Water treatment facility, West Shore Recreation Center, state Department of Transportation projects, East Shore Middle School, and the Borough of Woodmont.

“She also worked tirelessly on behalf of Milford Hospital, saving it millions of dollars. She fought shoulder to shoulder with the folks at Pond Point, trying to stop 8-30g development,” Smith said. “Matty’s a good kid, but to suggest Gayle doesn’t fight for the people of her district, to suggest she has not done enough, well, that’s not a good way to start his campaign.”