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
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 [
SLH: Absolutely. Because in
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
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
Susan Lavelli-Hozempa is the Republican candidate for state representative in the 58th District, which covers the eastern half of
If you are a challenger for a General Assembly seat and would like to be interviewed on this site, contact us!