Monday, October 09, 2006

House 58: Interview with Susan Lavelli-Hozempa

Part of an occasional series on challengers for seats in the General Assembly.

I met with Republican Susan Lavelli-Hozempa, who is challenging Rep. Kathy Tallarita (D) in the 58th Assembly district, over coffee on Wednesday, October 4th.

GC: Why do you want to run for office?

Susan Lavalli-Hozempa: I want to run for office because I’m a middle-class person, I’m 39 years old and married […] we bought our house six years ago in Enfield and literally, even though we both work, we have very good jobs … we cannot make it work, we’re two people working, ‘cause the taxes are so high. And, y’know, during this campaign, when I walk door-to-door, what I’ve said to people is, I’m—just one thing, “If you really don’t believe that you are overtaxed, I want you to take out your cell phone bill, your telephone bill, your electric bill, your cable bill, your satellite bill, whatever you have, and look at the tax that goes to the tax that goes to the state every single month. Then add in your income tax, and you’re going to figure out really quick why the state has a billion-dollar surplus. And I think that it’s terrible when you can work really hard and make an earnest effort, and you’re struggling. That’s sick! Because the state and the town and the feds have taken so much money away from you that you struggle. That’s crazy.

And so I think that a lot of people who are in government, are there for the wrong reasons. They’re there because they want a title, or they want to be a big shot, for their own personal satisfaction. A lot of them aren’t there because they know what it’s like to be me and you, a lot of them are there for other reasons, or they want to use the system to their own advantage. I think we need representation—of people who know what it’s like to actually have to pay all those bills, and just barely make it no matter how good of a job you have. So that’s why I’m running, because I think we need real representation in our government.

GC: So what’s the plan, then? What’s your plan to help fix the situation?

SLH: I just feel that if somebody could get in there and just kind of talk to these people—you can convince people if you put up a convincing argument showing through facts and information and black and white, “Hey, this is what you’re doing to people,” I think that you could sway people and they would understand, and you could get some things done as far as tax cuts, spending cuts, and exposing some of the waste in government. Because I think that one of the things that happens when someone sits in an office for a long time, is that they become immune to it, they just go through the motions, and they forget why they’re there in the first place.

So I’d like to go because I think I could influence people there, and say “You really need to think about it. Because you’re really hurting the average person.”

GC: Are there any specific things you would think about cutting, or any fat you would want to trim?

SLH: Oh, my God, there’s tons of fat! We have so many social service organizations in our state it’s astounding. Most people don’t even know what’s available to them through the social service organizations, and yet we pay bureaucrats, and employees, and layers upon layers of expenses and administration, to administer these programs that very few people in our state take advantage of. I think we really need to think about that. And those are things that either need to be cut or pared down to make it more efficient. Y’know, even the highway system, we just spent $52 million on the debacle in Waterbury, where those drains go to nowhere. Now, we have huge amounts of state highway inspectors. Now if the inspectors did their job, why are there drains that go to nowhere? So obviously, there’s some serious deficiencies in our state, and we must be paying a lot of money for a lot of people who apparently aren’t doing their job.

GC: Did you support Gov. Rell’s idea to cut the car tax?

SLH: Oh, God, yes. Cut something. Anything would be nice. Cut the dog license tax, I don’t care, but cut something because you can’t keep doing what you’re doing, because you’re killing everybody. You’re just killing us.

GC: Now, you do serve on the [Enfield] Board of Education, so you must have some idea of how connected things like education and property taxes are--

SLH: Absolutely. Because in Enfield, we have a $70 million school budget, and that accounts for a large chunk of the—I think it’s a $190 million town budget, and it’s a staggering figure for a town with only 6,633 kids in the school system. I mean, my God, let’s be realistic. If you do a per-pupil average, we’re spending $11,000 per student. You could educate somebody in college for that! Not a real great college, but a decent one.

And [the town] is that it’s subject to union binding arbitration, which I’d also like to see reform of at the state [level], because municipalities have no ability to actually negotiate their own employee contracts and you get subject to all kinds of ludicrous demands [from the] unions that the rest of us can’t pay for, because the private sector and the public sector are so divided in their ability to pay. You know, my company can’t do confiscatory taxation, it has to pay me through a profit margin.

If the town worked the same way, we wouldn’t be able to pay astronomical raises to people, we’d have to keep it market value. And I think that’s what’s happened. In a desire to become equitable between private and public sectors, you’ve now made it inequitable to the private sector employees, because now we have to pay all these dues to the public sector. And I think we need to find a nice even playing field where we’re both evenly matched, because I think right now it’s not the case.

GC: Okay. I wanted to ask you about some of the things that may be coming up in the next session, because if you are elected you will have a voice on these issues. One of the things the Democrats have been saying they’re going to bring up next year is universal health care. What do you think?

SLH: Health care is a benefit, not an entitlement. You know, when I was younger, I had jobs kind of like this one [indicates Starbucks personnel], when I was in college, I didn’t have benefits. I didn’t get benefits until I got out of school and got a real job. And part of my job search was that I found a job with benefits. […] And I think this “entitlement culture” that we live in is killing us. We can’t afford to buy everybody a house. We can’t afford to buy everybody a car, buy everybody food, buy everybody insurance. We can’t afford it as a society. It’s killing us.
There’s things I do think we need to help people with. The elderly, absolutely, when [they] stop working [they] have Medicare, they have Medicaid and all those things to support them, and I agree with that. These are people who have paid into the system all of their life, and they should be taken care of by the government, if they cannot take care of themselves. […]

But I think we really have to get away from the entitlement vs. what is a benefit concept. […] We’ve lost a whole bunch of population, we’ve lost business, we’ve lost all these entities because people just can’t afford to live here. You can’t when you’re living in a socialistic, communist society. It doesn’t work.

GC: Last year, Governor Rell signed campaign finance reform, part of which was public financing of campaigns. Is this something you think is going help?

SLH: I think it’s a bad idea. I’ll tell you why. I don’t want to publicly fund anybody’s campaign, especially somebody I don’t agree with. I think—I received no money except from people who were willing to donate to my campaign, I’m on a shoestring budget, I operate on about four thousand dollars, I don’t have a lot of money, a lot of people gave me twenty bucks, some people gave me fifty bucks, but I have to make my campaign work on that level. And I think that everybody should have to work that way, because I don’t want to through my taxation contribute to somebody who does things that [I dislike], especially somebody who is going to raise my taxes and create more regulation… and take more businesses out of my state. I don’t want to support that. So no, I don’t agree with that at all.

GC: About social issues. Last year the General Assembly passed civil unions. Are you more of a libertarian, socially speaking, or--?

I want people [in government] to be out of people’s lives. I think stay out of my wallet, stay out of my bedroom, stay out of my business, and just you do what you need to do, which is protect the public and provide safety and security and highways.

GC: So you do describe yourself as more of a libertarian perhaps?

SLH: In some ways. The thing about same-sex marriage: with anything you decide to do that going to socially change everything, you need to understand that there are unintended consequences: and when you try to make everything equal and fair to everybody, we all know that means that people are going to get burned. Because you can’t create equality for everybody, it’s not possible. My fear with the same-sex marriage thing is that if it was to pass, that first of all you’d have to teach homosexual sex in sex ed class just like you teach heterosexual [sex], because now it’s all fair, it’s all even and you have to teach everything. Then what happens with the people who are polygamists? Well, [they] want the same thing too. What happens to the people who are [into] bestiality? Well, [they] want the same thing, too. What about people who are—you know what I’m saying? Then all the sudden you open it up to one segment, which is a small percentage of the population, you have to open it up to everybody. Because now you have fairness. Everything goes, anything goes. And I think it’s very dangerous, when society tries to impose everything goes on everyone. And I think that’s [what I mean] by unintended consequences.

The other thing is that I don’t think it’s for government to decide, if we want to change a social definition, or a societal definition of marriage. I think it’s up to the people. That’s what states rights means, I’m a student of the Federalist Papers, which is the founding documents of the Constitution. And the Federalist Papers, the original intent of federalism, was that the states—the states’ people—decide. So for me same-sex marriage, if that’s an issue in Connecticut that really wants to be pursued, it should be put on a ballot referendum and voted on by the people of this state, not 187 legislators. That’s where I think government has too much power. I don’t think government should have the power to do that.

GC …Okay. Now, part of your district is [the poorer neighborhood of] Thompsonville, and we were talking a little earlier about health insurance. …What do you think the best thing you would be able to do for the people of Thompsonville, a lot of whom may have jobs where you don’t get great benefits. What, as a state legislator, would be the best way for you to deal with that?

SLH: I think we have to deregulate insurance. Right now, when you buy insurance in the state of Connecticut, the state […] mandates that, well, it has to cover a litany of things. For example, if you’re a man, even if you’re single, you’re buying insurance that covers ovarian cancer, mammograms, all kinds of stuff. If you’re a single woman, you’re buying stuff that covers only men’s ailments. Senior citizens are covered for childbirth. This is crazy. We should be able to buy insurance that covers our life’s needs. Y’know? […] It would make insurance a whole lot cheaper and more affordable to everyone.

GC: As a Republican running in a heavily Democratic district, what is the single most important thing you can say to voters to try and convince them to switch?

SLH: I think what I’ve been saying to voters is we have a billion-dollar surplus, and the state raised the gas tax in July. They raised the gross receipts tax, which adds seven cents per gallon onto your gallon of gas. I think that’s unfair when we have such a large surplus at the state level. […] A lot of people don’t think about it, but when I bring up the fact that you should take out your electric bill, your phone bill, your cable bill, your cell phone bill, and add up those line items in tax, and realize, that’s on top of stuff you never even looked at, never mind the 64 cents per gallon in gas, never mind the income tax that the state takes from you.

People have actually called me on the phone at my house afterwards, and they’ve said “Oh, my God. I did that and I can’t believe how much money it is."
A lot of people don’t know things that [Democratic State Rep.] Kathy [Tallarita] has done, like capping education cost-sharing. Which means that Enfield actually got less money from the state than it would have. She voted ... to cap it. And that was unfair. So I want people to understand: this is what we have to deal with, and this is what I offer in opposition. And people respond to that. They understand. They want more of our tax dollars to stay here in Enfield. So I’ve had a good response so far. And only the election will tell, but even if lose, it won’t be because I didn’t try real hard.

Susan Lavelli-Hozempa is the Republican candidate for state representative in the 58th District, which covers the eastern half of Enfield. For more information, see her website at

If you are a challenger for a General Assembly seat and would like to be interviewed on this site, contact us!


GMR said...

Interesting interview. Seems to have some decent ideas, although she seems to use "Y'know" a bit much. But overall, not bad. Does she have any chance at all? How did this district vote last time?

I think we have to deregulate insurance. Right now, when you buy insurance in the state of Connecticut, the state […] mandates that, well, it has to cover a litany of things. For example, if you’re a man, even if you’re single, you’re buying insurance that covers ovarian cancer, mammograms, all kinds of stuff. If you’re a single woman, you’re buying stuff that covers only men’s ailments. Senior citizens are covered for childbirth. This is crazy. We should be able to buy insurance that covers our life’s needs. Y’know? […] It would make insurance a whole lot cheaper and more affordable to everyone.

I think I know where she's coming from, but I'm a bit confused why this makes things more expensive. An insurance company selling a single guy a normal single guy policy, or a single guy policy plus pregnancy will charge the same amount, because there's no chance that the guy is ever going to file a pregnancy claim. The extra cost to the insurance company for having irrelevant coverage (pregnancy for single guys or seniors, mammograms for guys, etc) is zero.

Perhaps she means that insurance companies cannot sell policies for different prices based on the risk profile, but I don't think that even CT has such harsh policies in place that prevent the pricing of insurance based on risk. Or perhaps she'd like the insurance companies to have the ability to sell catastrophic-only coverage, or comprehensive coverage, or whatever policy menu the individual chooses? Mandating pregnancy coverage for guys costs nothing: mandating it for women is where the cost comes from!

MikeCT said...

Let's summarize her agenda - eliminating health coverage guarantees, increase the number of uninsured, bashing public servants, cutting revenues that sustain public services, reducing the rights of unionized workers, cutting pay, eliminating social service agencies, refusing equality to gay people (while equating gay sex with bestiality, unchallenged by your blogger interviewer), eliminating campaign finance reform, and keeping the flow of corporate cash to her coffers.

Sounds like your typical Republican. I wonder why they're in the minority in the Connecticut legislature?

cgg said...

I agree with Mike. The bestiality comment was seriously offensive. Ms. Lavelli-Hozempa would do well to remember that Gays and Lesbians are human beings too; human beings who have the right to vote.

Genghis Conn said...

FYI - The purpose of these interviews is for candidates to be able to express their opinions--whatever they are. I made a decision to let her words pretty much speak for themselves, for good or for ill.

Anonymous said...

The point is that if you redefine marriage for one group, you have to redefine it for all groups.

Anonymous said...

She's wearing the Yankee Institute and Family Institute label all the way. It's all the rage with the Republicans this season. The only thing she missed between her interview and her website was to mention that Rell is the Enemy of the Taxpayer according to YI.

Gabe said...

How would allowing same-sex marriage alter heterosexual marriages?

How would allowing two consenting adults to marry necessitate allowing someone to rape a (non-consenting) dog?

Also, first of all you’d have to teach homosexual sex in sex ed class just like you teach heterosexual [sex], because now it’s all fair, it’s all even and you have to teach everything. makes it seem like sex-ed is a sex tutorial. I remember it differently as a combination of teaching about diseases, the gestation cycle, and protection methods - all of which would still be applicable regardless of who marries whom.

Anonymous said...

Mike CT, I do not beleive she said cutting health care guarantees, she talked about letting the individual decide. Isn't that the principals of what our country was founded on, individuals deciding what is best for them? How will that create more uninsured? It might actually increase the number of insured's in our state.
She never advocated cutting all social services, in her response she stated that Medicare & Medicaid are good programs to help the elderly and the poor among us. What I think she meant were programs that are duplicates, or are not working to help the less fortunate, cutting the waste and she would fund the services that are working.

How much should taxes be? We are already the highest tax state in the country, yet you are advocating continuing on the same course. This is ludicrous. According to the state is losing the younger generation to lower tax states. If we cannot replenish our workforce, how do we attract new businesses? In 2005 we had a net negative growth. 10,800 people left the state after considering what migration flows we received. CT has seen the workforce steadily decline over the past 5 years. The state cannot continue on this pace. So as much as you view her as a typical Republican, if it's not working now, why not try something new.

And last about gay marriage, she said let the people decide. Put it to referendum, let the people's voice be heard.

I am voting for her, finally someone who will let me decide, and allow my voice to be heard.

Anonymous said...

Every time a Republican gives their honest views like this woman did they'll lose the election they're running in.

Great interview GC.You allowed the candidate to expose herself as a bigot and a fool.

Anonymous said...

Genghis, don't blame you for asking tame questions and letting her ramble about her ideas and policy goals.

What have we learned:

Taxes are everywhere and evil, and state government is too big and wasteful and state workers are lazy... is she saying Jodi Rell is doing a bad job or is this Rowland's fault too, y'know?

On a side note, does anyone have any numbers about how many full time highway inspectors they had out there on 84?

Gay sex = sex with animals.

I'm very happy she doesn't serve on my town's board of ed., although her point about mandatory arby is a problem that it seems every town has.

She's completely clueless about how insurance is priced and sold.

Anonymous said...

Why not put everything up for a referendum not just same sex marriage. Eliminate representative government, i.e. the General Assembly. Or heck, just have an annual New England town meeting at Adrien's Landing to decide things.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1102 -

I'm with you, I think I am voting for her too. At the very least she is bringing some ideas to the table...isn't that what this is about - ideas?

Will they all work -no. But she has started it and that is more than can be said for our current State Rep who has done just about nothing in a decade or new ideas, no bills of any substance, just goes to the capital and tows the party line of tax and spend.

Anon 1114 -

The animal comment was a bit over the top, I agree. As far as taxes, she is right. And yes, Rell should share in this blame as well. $1 Billion is not a surplus, it is overtaxation, plain and simple.

ON insurance, I will plead ignorance but you seem like you think you know what you were talking about so can you share with me how insurance is priced?

Again, even if her idea won't work, at least she has ideas!!!

Anonymous said...

There is a billion dollar surplus in name only. The state debt is huge and the teachers' pension is unfunded. This is just politcal game playing. Maybe since she doesn't want same sex marraige she wants to get rid of government sanctioned marriage altogether.

Anonymous said...


Kathy Tallarita can go to the bahamas for the rest of the fall if this is what her competition is like. So much for a good race in the 58th.

Anonymous said...

Annon 11:59

Sue is right, there is a surplus. you call it in name only, but the current legislator's are viewing it as not paying down the debt, but to create new spending programs. How will that help all of the unfunded pension's and pay the debt? I give her credit, she said things that cause everyone to think and open up the debate. That is a good thing.

She is married, so I do not believe she wants to get rid of marriage, just let the people vote if they want to change the definition of marriage. What is wrong with that? Are you afraid of people actually getting to voice what they want?

GMR said...

The bestiality comment was indeed silly. I can't imagine that gay marriage would eventually allow berstiality or pedophile relationships (because in both cases, the other party does not have legal standing to accept this arrangement). However, I can imagine that gay marriage could lead to polygamy being allowed, with the argument that since it's all consenting adults, what's the problem?

Also, note that before 1989 or so, gay marriage really wasn't much of an issue anywhere in the world. Most US states still don't allow it, or even civil unions.

How many people really rank gay marriage as a big issue though? In the Netherlands, which has about 5 times the population of Connecticut, there are about 1,200 gay weddings each year. Extrapolating that here would indicate less than 300 gay marriages per year (unless Connecticut allowed out of staters to do it, in which case we'd become the Las Vegas for gay marriages).

One issue that I do believe exists about gay marriage is its potential to weaken the institution of marriage. Jane Galt has a long post on the topic, and she doesn't take a position on gay marriage per se, but examines the argument.

Anon11:59 mentioned the underfunded pension liability. I'm not up to speed on Connecticut's particular case (and if that cost is borne more by the local municipalities or by the state itself), but in the country in general, municipal pensions are a huge issue. It's bad for some old-line companies such as GM (newer companies don't offer their workers pensions, instead they choose 401ks). However, corporations have much more stringent accounting requirements, and in the US, there's a big municipal pension crisis looming on the horizon that hardly ever gets talked about.

Anonymous said...

You people are the bigots. She just said people should way out the unintended consequences, she did not compare gays with beastiality or poligamist, You guys are the ones who can't understand an argument because you are so closed minded. Keep giving the government all your money because you are not getting much from them in return.

Anonymous said...

I always find it funny when people who distrust government end up running it. The cycle is politicians cut programs and taxes they don't like, things don't go well, solution to new problems is less government, repeat as necessary.

What she's effectively saying regarding health insurance, is that health insurance is not something everyone should have or expect and that regulations that require health insurers to not drop pateints facing a chronic, expensive and long-term problem are bad, since they raise the cost of insurance for everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Annon 1:20

I did not read that she would remove regulations requiring insurers to keep insureds facing chronic expensive and long term problems are bad. What she was in effect saying, is let's look at what is increasing the cost of medical insurance, and allow certain coverages to be purchased by endorsement, rather than be included in the package. When you purchase home or auto insurance do you want to pay for coverage you will never need? Or do you decline that coverage and keep the money in your pocket? All she is saying let's look at something new, that has not been tried.

It's about time we had someone who will talk openly about the issues, rather than brush them under the rug and only say what we want to hear. I like her, she sounds fiesty and will not take marching orders like her opponent.

Suffield Notcher said...

I give Ms. Lavalli some credit for at leat having the balls to voice some strong opinions on the issues.

She may need some polish if she's able to get herself elected, but in time I think she'll find a tempered voice and could prove to provide a reasonable conservative opinion to many-a-useful policy.

I can't seem to recall anything particulalrly striking being generated by Rep. Tallarita across the river in the last several years.

If I were a betting, I'd label 58th a toss-up at this moment.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 2:40, so I should have to go out and buy the diabetes endorsement, how about the dialysis endorsement? My family has a high risk of skin cancer, should I be charged more for health insurance because of that, like speeding tickets for automobile insurance? How far are you willing to take that reasoning? There is a reason why most health insurance in this country is priced and sold on the group level.

I think expensive diseases that require lots of testing and treatment drive up the cost of health insurance. The cost of prescription medicines (such as chemotherapy medicines that might cost $10,000 a treatment) also drive up the price of health insurance. You can buy cheaper health insurance, its called having high deductibles, but most people are covered by their employers who provide lower deductibles because they feel it puts them in a better competitive position to attact employees.

Its great that Ms. Lavalli's willing to express her opinions, so that the voters in her district can understand that she has no idea what she is talking about.

Anonymous said...

Annon 5:01

All that she said was that certain coverages, not all could be by endorsement. A diabetes endorsement or cancer endorsement would be foolish, she never mentioned those. She talked about men specific issues and women specific issues for the opposite sex. She seems to know more than you think. You are correct that most companies offer the lower deductibles to attract employees, and I am sure that she would look to allow people to choose higher deductibles and exclude certain coverages only if they choose to. The whole theme of her article is to return the government to the people. Let people make the decisions in their life, rather than some official making that decision for you.

I like a candidate who will let me make the decisions, rather than someone making them for me. Your level of coverage may be different than mine, I may choose to go with a basic policy, and you may choose all the bells and whistles, but at least we got to choose. Finally a candidate who gets it.

Anonymous said...

Wow, finally a candidate who makes George Bush look smart. Well at least she and Kissel can console each other after they lose....BIG TIME!

Anonymous said...

In reading this interview, I find her comments interesting. Her style in a little unusual, but it did get me to start thinking. What is govenment supposed to do? Allow people to try to provide for their families, or tax everyone and they can figure out what needs to be provided for? Exactly what has Kathy done for us over the past 6 years? Maybe it's time for a change. I'll vote for her. She can't be any lazier than Kathy.

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled upon this interview. I once thought "good for her as she was stepping up" and I might actually vote for her. Now I read this (twice because I couldn't believe it the first time) and I see the true candidate. I give her credit for being honest. I take all those points away for being a special kind of stupid. I guess college didn;t help any. This is an angry comment if you couldn't tell. Is this all our party could muster? I am both ashamed and embarassed.