A crowd of about 150 turned out Monday night, Sept. 17, to hear the two candidates seeking to become the next state senator for the 14th District \u2014 Republican state Rep. Pam Staneski and Democrat James Maroney. While it\u2019s difficult to determine winners and losers in political debates, the usually soft-spoken Maroney appeared to push Staneski back on her heels at times, painting her as one who\u2019s a close friend to the gun lobby as well as questioning her belief in human-caused global warming \u2014 a big issue in a city that\u2019s been battered by tropical storms in recent years. Meanwhile, Staneski questioned Maroney\u2019s record at the State Capitol, saying that he\u2019s was part of Democratic policies that increased taxes that \u201care driving people out of Connecticut \u2014 old and young.\u201d But to that, Maroney said that it\u2019s time for \u201ca new day\u201d for Connecticut. \u201cThe time has come for us to work together,\u201d Maroney said. \u201cIt\u2019s a new day for civility, and new day for businesses, and new day for students and a new day for families.\u201d The first question had to do with gun violence and what would the candidates do about that issue. \u201cWe have the most stringent gun laws in the nation,\u201d Staneski said. \u201cI have advocated funding a (school) resource officers grant \u2014 that was shot down. And I\u2019ve advocated funding the state firearm trafficking task force. And I\u2019ve advocated funding state mental health services.\u201d Staneski waved a report to the crowd \u2014 \u201cOur gun laws are not enforced,\u201d she said. Maroney said Staneski has favored the gun lobby\u2019s push to allow assault rifle owners to buy so-called bump stocks \u2014 devices that allow an assault rifle to fire at rates similar to that of a fully automatic weapon. She was one of 34 state representatives to stand opposed to the bump stock ban in the last session. \u201cIn Las Vegas, we had 59 people killed, but we also had 1,000 in all who were shot \u2014 all in about time it take to fry an egg,\u201d Maroney said. \u201cWhy would you want modifications to a rifle to fire like a fully automatic weapon.\u201d Staneski said the bump stock ban bill was harmful to paintball enthusiasts, an argument that seemed to fall flat with the crowd. And Maroney shot back that his opponent also voted against a bill to take firearms away from people who are issued temporary restraining orders. \u201cIt seems that you are opposed to all gun legislation,\u201d Maroney said. The next series of questions had to do with the state\u2019s economy \u2014 and keeping young people in the state. \u201cPeople like to move too places with strong school systems,\u201d he said. \u201cWe need to partner with companies to offer tax credits to help their employees pay off student loans. And we also need to do more with apprenticeships. We need to be creative.\u201d Staneski said she has pushed for better apprenticeship programs. \u201cWe have put programs in place to allow our state technical schools to speed the approval process for programs \u2014 something needed to allow school to respond quickly to changing needs.\u201d Maroney said the GOP budget \u2014 the one that didn\u2019t pass \u2014 would have cut more than $400 million to higher education. \u201cShow me your budget, and I\u2019ll show you your priorities,\u201d he said. \u201cOne of the biggest cuts to higher ed in the nation.\u201d One of the questions aged about the state\u2019s fiscal mess, an issue that has confounded politicians from both parties. \u201cWe have to change our direction,\u201d Staneski said. \u201cI know the head of a moving company and he tells me that everyone is moving out and no one is moving in,\u201d she said. \u201cHe is always coming back with empty loads.\u201d Two earlier contests between the two were cliffhangers for the 119th House District. In 2012, Maroney defeated Staneski 5,998-5,528. But the tables turned in 2014, when Staneski defeated Maroney 4,423-4,272. Maroney didn't run for the 119th in 2016; in that year, Staneski handily defeated Democrat Ben Gettinger by a vote count of 7,538-5,231. The 14th Senate district seat has been occupied by Gayle Slossberg, 52, for the past 14 years. She announced in March that this would be her final term in the Senate. In 2016, Slossberg defeated Pat Libero, of West Haven. The 14th includes all of Milford and Orange, the southern half of West Haven, and part of Woodbridge. She won by nearly 4,000 votes, a comfortable win. The 14th Senate District has 21,787 registered Democrats, 13,038 Republicans and 27,969 unaffiliated voters, according to state officials. A Republican held the seat before Slossberg took it in 2004.