Cheat Sheet: Derby-Ansonia 104th State House Race

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.

The 104th state House of Representatives race between Democrat Kara Rochelle and Republican Joseph Jaumann may be a bellwether in this year’s state elections.

The district covers Ansonia and part of Derby.

On the one hand, Democrats have held the seat since 1986, and hold a registration advantage over Republicans, who could be facing a traditional mid-term backlash after Donald Trump won the White House in 2016.

On the other, Trump won the lower Naugatuck Valley, where Republicans control local governments and Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is deeply unpopular.

The Candidates

Jaumann, an Ansonia resident, is a Bridgeport-based lawyer and currently serves on Ansonia’s Board of Aldermen, representing the Fifth Ward.

He is also a driving force behind a committee looking at whether to regionalize Ansonia and Derby schools.

Here is an interview The Valley Indy conducted with Jaumann over the summer:

Rochelle, who lives in Derby, is the administrator of Shabtai, a faith-based nonprofit affiliated with Yale University, and has also served on the Derby Board of Ethics.

She also ran unsuccessfully last year for a spot on the Derby tax board.

They are running to succeed state Rep. Linda Gentile, D-Ansonia, who has represented the district since 2004.

Prior to Gentile, Vincent Tonucci held the seat for nine terms.

Here is a podcast interview The Valley Indy conducted with Rochelle over the summer.

This year’s election is Jaumann’s second attempt at the seat — in 2016, Gentile took 57 percent of the vote to defeat him 4,880 to 3,673.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Click here to look up your polling place.

The Campaign

The candidates have not debated face to face. The Valley Indy hosted separate interviews with each of the candidates in August.

Click here to read a story about fundraising in the race.

The campaign got off to an odd start when a Connecticut Post story revealed Rochelle didn’t actually live in the 104th District, due to a local government mistake determining where the lines should be drawn separating it from the 105th District.

Rochelle said she’ll move into the 104th District if she wins the race.

Jaumann said he didn’t plan to make an issue of Rochelle’s residence, but Ansonia Republicans raised the issue in a negative Facebook post about Rochelle in the last week of the campaign.

Issues-wise, the campaign has taken place against the backdrop of a months-long legal fight between Ansonia’s Board of Education and City Hall over a $600,000 cut to the school district’s budget made by the Board of Aldermen this year.

Jaumann voted for the cut, which has resulted in criticism from Rochelle and her supporters.

It’s also led to three prominent Ansonia Republican officials — Board of Education President William Nimons, Alderman Kevin O’Brien, and Board of Education member Vinnie Scarlata — endorsing Rochelle’s candidacy.

Former Republican Alderwoman Joan Radin has also endorsed Rochelle.

Division within the ranks of Ansonia’s GOP is nothing new, but Republican officials publicly endorsing the candidacy of a Democrat is.

Otherwise, the campaign has followed a familiar narrative seen in the statewide battle between the two major parties.

Quickly summarizing some of the major issues brought up by the candidates:

Jaumann says he’ll go to Hartford to rein in tax-and-spend Democrats who, under Gov. Dannel Malloy, have led the state to financial ruin.

Rochelle has tried to distance herself from Malloy, who is deeply unpopular in the Valley. For example, she said she was against the state paying $10 million for a study on tolls, but was open to the concept of tolls for big rigs and out-of-state drivers.

Jaumann said he would welcome “a conversation” about tolls only if it included proposals to reduce other taxes.

Rochelle is for increasing the minimum wage to $15, while Jaumann isn’t.

Rochelle is for legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Jaumann said he was against legalization “as a revenue mechanism,” but said he would consider legalizing pot otherwise.

Jaumann said the state should not have banned bump stocks for guns.

Rochelle described herself as “middle of the road” on the issue and said she thinks the laws as they stand are effective, but at the same time said she’d “carefully” look at both sides of the issue if new proposals came up.

In addition to the usual campaigning of going door-to-door and sending out mailers, both candidates have also used Facebook to reach out directly to potential voters and highlight prominent endorsements.

Click here for Jaumann’s Facebook page.

Click here for Rochelle’s.

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