Marjorie Bonadies prefers you don’t ask her about Donald Trump. She’d rather talk about how her experience as a nurse prepared her to tackle government.
“It’s unfair,” she said, “that we’re being asked to denounce Trump and Democrats are not being asked to denounce” Hillary Clinton.
By “we,” Bonadies meant local Republicans running for state office this fall.
Deep-blue New Haven and southern Hamden have two Republicans seeking state legislative offices in the Nov. 8 general election. Bonadies is opposing Democrat Joshua Elliott for Hamden’s open 88th General Assembly District seat. And Doug Losty is taking on 15-year Democratic incumbent Toni Walker in New Haven’s 93rd General Assembly District.
Hamden last elected a Republican state legislator 19 years ago, according to Bonadies. New Haven Republicans barely even field candidates: Losty is the only one this year running for any of the city’s eight state House and Senate seats. They can’t count on the money or party workers their Democratic opponents get. But that hasn’t stopped them from knocking on doors, in Bonadies’ case seven days a week.
For Losty, a 66-year-old former merchant marine-turned-property owner and landlord, the quest — his first for elected office — matters because democracy matters.
“I didn’t think it was democratic to have only one candidate on the ballot,” he said. Losty, who lives in the West Hills neighborhood (he grew up partly there, partly in Fair Haven), has for more than a decade presided over the Greater New Haven Property Owners Association, which represents landlords’ interests.
Bonadies, a 52-year-old nurse who serves as the minority leader on Hamden’s Town Council, said she believes she can combine her political experience with her “outsider” status as a local Republican to help her party steer the state toward deep needed changes in budgeting, health care, and education.
She noted that her Democratic opponent Elliott, a first-time candidate, won an upset victory over the establishment candidate in the Aug. 9 Democratic primary with the help of fellow Bernie Sanders campaign veterans who pressed an insurgent message.
“I am more of an outsider” because of the almost two-decade drought in electing Hamden Republicans to the statehouse, Bonadies argued during a joint appearance with Losty Monday on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven” program. “I represent change.”
She argued that her two terms on the Town Council make her more prepared to be a change agent than newcomer Elliott, who manages his mom’s Thyme & Season natural foods store in Hamden and owns Shelton’s Common Bond Market: “You have to be a member of the establishment you wish to change. I can get things done and reach across the aisle.”
For 10 years Bonadies worked as a nurse at the old Hospital of St. Raphael, before Yale-New Haven bought it. She now works for a private practice. She said the state needs to do more to help smaller hospitals like the former St. Raphe’s from going out of business or being taken over by either Yale-New Haven or Hartford Hospital, the two entities dominating the market.
She recalled a night in the St. Raphael emergency room when an older man came in short of breath. He waited and waited to see a doctor. Bonadies was concerned that he was seriously ill. “I had to make a fuss and literally grab an ER doctor,” she said. By the time she did, it was too late: The man had a blood clot in his lung, and he died. She said she believes that if a doctor had seen him sooner, he would have lived.
Alternatives To Dems On Issues
She applied a lesson from that night to the state’s recurring budget crises as well as a broken educational system. “You have to trust your instincts,” Bonides said: If a small problem catches your eye and looks like it could get bigger, it makes sense to act on it rather than let it fester.
Along those lines, she and Losty called for an extensive review of how all state agencies operate to trim the cost of government. She did not identify specific cuts she would make.
They both also applauded a state judge’s ruling two weeks ago ordering the government to start fundamentally changing how it funds and sets standards for public schools, without necessarily spending more money. Losty offered that the state needs to become less “rigid” in certifying teachers from out of state. He also recommended that it work to encourage more mid-career people to launch teaching professions, and he called for schools to set more “flexible” weekend and evening hours for parents to meet with teachers.
Neither candidate agreed with Elliott that the state should explore regional schools districts, combining Hamden, New Haven, and other suburbs into one system.
Bonadies said that would make it harder for parents to participate in school board meetings, for instance. “I think education should remain local,” she said. She called for “removing politics from the way we fund our schools” at the state level.
The pair disagreed with their Democratic opponents on the minimum wage. Their opponents have called for raising it to $15 an hour. Losty claimed that would kill jobs. Bonadies said government shouldn’t “artificially inflate the price of labor.”
Similarly they broke with their opponents by opposing a raise in income tax rates for the highest earners — the state has already lost 798 millionaires since top rates rose in 2011, Bonadies said — and by opposing a “Walmart” bill to charge the largest private employers for Medicaid, food stamps, or other state help provided to their low-wage workers. They argued that such a bill would unfairly and impractically draw distinctions between large and small employees.
And they called for term limits for state legislators: Losty, for eight years; Bonadies, for ten. “The country was founded on citizen politicians, not professional politicians,” Losty said. “We need to get back to that.”
The Trump Shadow
Amid saturating national media coverage of the Trump-Clinton presidential race, the two are running for office in Hillary country, though Bonadies said she sees “a lot of Trump signs” during her daily door-knocking in the district. Losty doesn’t see the signs when campaigning in new Haven’s West Hills and Beaver Hills neighborhoods.
Bonadies said she would have preferred Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or John Kasich as the GOP nominee.
“There is the Trump dance that we have to do,” Bonadies acknowledged. “I do find him very arrogant and unable to control his emotions.”
Asked whether she will vote for Trump, Bonadies responded at first with dead air. Then she responded: “When I go into the booth, it’s private.”
“I think it’s unfair that we’re being asked to denounce Trump, and we’re not asking Democrats to denounce Hillary. They both have very high negatives. I think it’s a shame the process has given us these two candidates.”
“I may or may not vote for him,” Losty said when asked the same question. “He is not tactful, to put it mildly,” and that make cause problems with international relations. He said he’s considering voting for Libertarian Gary Johnson.
People can learn more about Losty’s campaign by calling (203) 387-4124 and Bonadies’ campaign at this website.
Click on or download the above audio file to hear the full interview with Losty and Bonadies on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven.”
Click on or download the above audio file to hear a previous WNHH interview with Losty’s opponent, State Rep. Toni Walker ...
... and on the above file to hear a previous WNHH interview with Bonadies’ opponent, Joshua Elliot.
This episode of “Dateline New Haven” was made possible with the support of Gateway Community College and Berchem, Moses & Devlin, P.C.