Evelyn Mantilla currently represents the 4th District (Hartford) in the state House of Representatives. She is seeking the Democratic nomination for Secretary of the State. A question and answer session has not yet been scheduled.
The following is my interview with her, unedited. The interview took place over email on Tuesday, August 9th, from 6pm to 8pm.
Rep. Evelyn Mantilla, welcome to Connecticut Local Politics. To
begin with, many people don't know who you are, yet. Tell us a little
about yourself, and why you're running for Secretary of the State.
First of all, I really want thank you for facilitating the thoughtful discussions that are so important in this political climate. I really appreciate being able to communicate with folks through your site.
I was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico and came to the US at the age of 15 when my mother was recruited to teach at the Hartford school system (I come from a family of educators). I finished high school in East Hartford and pursued my higher education like many other people, part-time, nights and weekends. I built a career in computer systems and worked my way to become a Manager of Information Systems. At the same time, I dedicated a lot of my efforts to volunteering, particularly as a Sexual Assault Crisis Counselor for over 10 years. This experience helped me understand the power of public policy in people's lives.
In 1993 I decided to run for Hartford City Council and lost by 16 votes on a recount! This was my first lesson in the power of every vote. Immediately after that experience I went on my own to start my own small business designing databases.
I ran for State Representative in 1996, where I challenged a corrupt incumbent and lost by a narrow margin. He was subsequently convicted of voter fraud and a special election was held in 1997. I ran against 5 other candidates and was elected by a 2 to 1 margin. I am proud to be serving my 5th term, representing the 4th Assembly District.
I am running for Secretary of the State because I am committed to furthering our democracy for all communities in our state. In the next couple of years, very important decisions will be made that will affect every citizen and their ability to be heard in our political system. I bring a unique set of skills and experiences that will help me protect the rights of every voter and, at the same time, elevate the effectiveness of all the services that are provided by this office.
You mentioned on ctnewsjunkie.com that you’d be in favor of reducing the size of the legislature and having representatives and senators serve four year terms instead of two, with half the legislature up for re-election every two years. This is an interesting proposal. Why do you think it’s good for Connecticut, and why it is more democratic than the system we have now?
I think it is extremely important that when we work on furthering our democracy, we look at the big picture. This is why I favor studying all aspects of our political system. It is clear that with the money-driven system that we have now, coupled with the short terms we have created a "power of incumbency" that does not open enough doors for new leadership, new ideas and new solutions. The current system is not responsive to the needs of the everyday citizen and is more responsive to the lobbyist and big money contributors.
There is a pretty crowded field of candidates right now for the Democratic nomination. Why do you feel that you will win this race? In what ways do you feel you stand out from the rest of the Democrats running?
I believe that the voting rights of the citizens of CT are precious and we must do everything possible to guarantee that right all. I have felt for a long time that the best way I could serve the people of our state is as Secretary of the State because it is the office with the strongest forum to fight for equal and fair representation.
It is clear to me that in order to win this race, I must bring something to the table. For me that is my unique combination of skills and experiences as well as a base of voters that will strengthen the statewide ticket. I am working hard to organize my base across the state. I also understand that, until we reform our campaign finance system, it takes money to win. I consider myself a strong fundraiser and will work hard to mobilize grassroots financial support.
How do you plan to reach out beyond your base, which you define as “the Latino community, the LGBT community and people that have worked in the progressive circles for a long time,” to moderates and others?
One of the qualities I bring to this race is my ability to work with the small business and corporate communities. In my political career, I have dedicated my efforts to supporting families in every way. From fighting for a quality education for all, to supporting economic development that moves our entire state forward, I have been able to reach out to and work with colleagues of on both sides of the aisle to enact policy that is best for Connecticut. One of my strenghts is in building consensus to accomplish good public policy. This skill will be critical in order to successfully reform our campaign finance system and to enact a system of electronic voting that is accurate and guarantees every vote.
You describe yourself as a small business owner. If you were elected, what would the Secretary of the State’s office do to help businesses in the state of Connecticut?
The jobs created by small business are the backbone of our economy and are particularly important to our urban communities. As the Chief Business Registrar, the Secretary of the State's office has access to the very same small businesses that will make our economy strong. The office also has the important responsbility of providing the public with information from business filings. As Secretary of the State, it will be my goal to improve access to information by creating an efficient one-stop process for businesses and individuals who need to file information or get information from our state government.
I trust you have received my answers to all 5 questions. I want to thank you again for helping me speak directly to the voters in this forum.
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to email or call me. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and my website is mantilla2006.com.