119th race: Kathy Kennedy says she knows how to make tough choices

Kathy Kennedy, the Republican candidate for state representative in the 119th District, admits she doesn’t have political experience, but she says she knows how to manage a tight personal budget; has united PTA parents around the state to work together as past president of the state PTA, and uses common sense to overcome challenges.

Kennedy said making tough choices about spending is something she has done at home and is prepared to do at the state. After she got divorced about five years ago and moved into a condominium, she realized she couldn’t afford the car she was driving. So she sold it and is driving an older model car her parents gave her. Sometimes she walks the mile or so to her job as an administrative assistant in the City of Milford’s legal department. She also picked up catering work on the weekends, and she makes extra money recording minutes for city meetings, a longtime job she says has brought her up close to city politics, though not in the driver’s seat.

“We definitely spend too much money, so we definitely have to curb our spending,” Kennedy said, discussing the state budget. “It seems that it’s overspending. It seems like it’s taxing.”

She said the process starts by looking at the available revenue and the costs, and then making decisions. Sometimes, “as hard as those decisions are you just have to make them,” she said.

However, that doesn’t mean Kennedy has a cut, cut, cut mentality. She said that while she has a lot of homework to do on the state budget, and generally thinks the state spends too much, she wouldn’t advocate cutting randomly. Rather, she would do research before making any decisions to cut spending. “I would have to know why. I’d have to make sure the constituents know why we have to go that way,” she said.

Noting that she conducted her PTA presidency with an eye toward making decisions that are sustainable, she said she would do the same as state representative.

“I think my strengths are bringing people together and getting things done,” Kennedy said. She said she looks at an issue, researches the problem and tries to come up with a solution. “We have to make sure it’s going to sustain down the road when you and I aren’t even here.”

Kennedy said a lot of her experience comes from supporting the programs that revolve around her children, such as the PTA, the Foran Sports Booster Club when her son was a student there, and now college football.

Kennedy first announced she would seek the Republican endorsement to run for state Senate in the 14th District, and then decided to run for the 119th District state representative seat instead when the incumbent in that seat, Pam Staneski, said she would run for state Senate.

Kennedy said she was asked to run for state Senate several years ago but declined because she had just become president of the state PTA.

And through the PTA work she grew more interested in state politics.

“Being the PTA president you spend a lot of time in Hartford and there’s something about the legislative office building: There’s a passion that comes over you and you start thinking, ‘Hey, if I could make a little bit of difference, if I can help just one person, maybe I can help a few people…”

She describes her politics as common sense politics. And common sense tells her that “we have to fix Connecticut.”

Kennedy says she would target burdensome rules and mandates that hurt small businesses.

As for state tolls, Kennedy said she wouldn’t have supported the idea that was touted as legislators prepared to vote on a toll study this past summer.

“The way the proposals were, no way,” Kennedy said, adding that the toll plan would have primarily increased costs for residents as they traveled around the state for work and daily tasks.

“We don’t have the funds to put them in,” she said. “How are we going to do this?”

She also said she would not have supported a $10 million toll study: “There are three studies sitting on a shelf,” Kennedy said.

On the environment, Kennedy believes that teaching children about climate change is important, but she seemed to agree with Staneski, who voted against making climate change mandatory in schools, citing a burdensome number of mandates.

Kennedy said she looked into the proposal, which was discussed at a debate between Staneski and her opponent James Maroney in September, and learned that “administrators just didn’t feel they could squeeze another thing in.”

She said there are other ways to bring climate change education into the classroom, perhaps through after-school programs or PTA-sponsored programs.

“Valuable, absolutely. Is there another way to get it in, sure,” Kennedy said.

Taking minutes for many years for the Board of Aldermen and other city boards offered a view of local politics and processes. Kennedy said the most important thing she has learned is that if a resident wants something to happen and they are passionate about it and keep fighting for it, they can make a difference.

“When the nurses years ago were going to be cut, those nurses got their facts and they came to every single meeting,” Kennedy said. “It was the same thing with the media specialists. They did their research and they didn’t bombard with 1,700 people speaking. They had one spokesperson, and they came with their facts. I tell people if you want something badly enough, you can achieve it.”