Connie Jagodzinski, Republican candidate for state representative in the 118th District, has been in the background working on political campaigns for years. Now she’s out front, challenging incumbent Kim Rose because, she said, she’s tired of seeing the direction in which Democrats have taken the state, especially when it comes to spending.

Jagodzinski said there wasn’t a rush of GOP members willing to challenge Rose, but Jagodzinski is so passionate about the Republican ideals that she hopes to bring to Hartford that she said she could not let the 118th District race take place without a GOP challenger. So she stepped out of the background.

Working behind the scenes on state and local campaigns, running headquarters and other tasks over the years didn’t bring her into the public eye, so there are people who don’t know her or what she stands for. Many are more likely to know the name Tom Jagodzinski, Connie’s husband, a former Board of Education member and former Republican Town Committee chairman known for speaking his mind.

So by way of introductions, Connie Jagodzinski explained that when she was 18 years old she joined the Air Force.

“There weren’t a lot of jobs in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri and Arkansas, and I wanted to serve my country,” she said. “It was during the Vietnam War.”

She worked in Strategic Air Command, and said she was always the first woman to work in the data processing departments where she was assigned.

“I was always the first,” she said, adding that she excelled because she wanted to pave the way for other women.

Later stationed in Westover, Mass., she fell in love with Connecticut, and then she moved here — but she says that Connecticut doesn’t exist anymore. She’d like to help bring it back.

“It was a wonderful place,” Jagodzinski said about June 1975 in Connecticut. “There were businesses and opportunities. It was Camelot. There were jobs, opportunities, the taxes were low. It was very liveable. And within one week I had a job.

“Things are not like that anymore,” she said, pointing to “one budget crisis after another and one tax increase after another.”

Raising taxes is not the answer to the state’s budget problems, but rather a sure way to send more people packing up and heading to other states to live, Jagodzinski said.

That is what she’s heard most as she’s knocked on doors this campaign season.

“People say, ‘Im leaving’,” Jagodzinski said. “Twenty-five percent of people answer their doors, and of those, 70% say they are leaving or they want to leave.”

That includes people who owe so much on their houses that they can’t leave, and those people are angry, Jagodzinski said. “They can’t afford to live here and they can’t afford to leave.

“It’s like the Tale of Two Cities — ‘It was the best of times; it was the worst of times,’ and people are really angry. We need a new majority up there that is known for its fiscal conservatism.”

Jagodzinski said she is a “coupon-clipping housewife who knows how to keep to a budget.

“I know that if I spend more than I make, I can get away with it for a little while, but you can’t keep doing that,” Jagodzinski said. “You will end up on the street. And that is what has happened to our state. We have to cut up their credit cards.”

Jagodzinski sees red when discussing state bonding, noting $500 million in grants and loans approved by the state Bond Commission in September. She said it’s that kind of borrowing that is creating astronomical debt that will send children and grandchildren moving out of state. And Jagodzinski, a mother and grandmother, does not want to see that happen.

“That’s why I’m fighting,” she said. “I want to keep my kids and grandkids here. Hell hath no fury like a grandmother denied access to her grandkids.”

Jagodzinski is passionate about changing the state’s spending habits.

She cites wasteful spending: The $9.1 million construction at Silver Sands State Park; the CTFastrak bus line that she said cost $567 million to build and requires $17.5 million in public subsidies each year, and the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail line that she said cost $769 million to construct and which she said only serves an estimated 2,428 riders each weekday.

Jagodzinski said people call her “the no tolls lady” because she is adamantly opposed to state tolls.

“Connecticut has enough revenue,” she said. “With all the taxes we have how can we not have enough revenue? It’s being spent unwisely.”

She says Democrats sweep money from the special transportation fund and the clean energy fund, “and when money goes into the general fund, kiss it goodbye,” she said.

The state needs to reign in spending, cut waste and create new revenue streams so it can start lowering taxes.

“Connecticut residents are overtaxed,” Jagodzinski said. “We need good-paying jobs, and we need to reign in waste and fraud and return those revenue streams to the the budget in order to begin to cut taxes and fully fund vitally needed services like mental health, Medicare and Medicaid.”

She supports tax breaks for seniors based on income.

“I’ve got heartbreaking stories of knocking on doors, almost 6,000 doors, of seniors who literally are spending thousands of dollars a month,” Jagodzinski said. “They have to choose between food and which medicines they can take.”