Christine Hunter Cohen, a Madison business owner and an education advocate from Guilford, wants to be the next 12th District Democratic senator, replacing Ted Kennedy Jr., who announced earlier this year he would not seek re-election.
Cohen, the owner of Cohen’s Bagel Company in Madison, lives in Guilford with her husband and three young children and serves on the Guilford Board of Education. In an interview, she said her experience as a small business owner and her commitment to public education are the driving forces in her decision to run for the senate seat.
“The state budget cuts have had immense impact,” she said in an interview. “And Connecticut needs to grow small businesses. We need to a take holistic approach to Connecticut, by looking at the whole set of issues rather than focusing on single issues. We need to look at transportation and we need to protect our environment. Let’s look at the whole picture and not departmentalize it. Let’s take a holistic approach.”
The 12th District oversees Branford, Guilford, Madison, North Branford, Durham, and Killingworth.
In the last few weeks Cohen said she is getting out and about her district, visiting various towns and their Democratic Town Committees. She is also participating in the state’s Citizens’ Election Program, which provides full public financing to qualified candidates for statewide offices and the General Assembly. To participate, candidates must agree to abide by certain guidelines, including contribution and expenditure limits and disclosure requirements. This voluntary public campaign financing program is designed to encourage citizen participation and limit the role of private money in the State of Connecticut’s political process.
She told the Eagle she is close to raising the required $15,000 in donations ranging from $5 to $250. This year the contribution limit has been raised from $100 to $250. “I am near to my goal,” she said of her effort, which began about two weeks ago, after she announced her candidacy on March 19. Once she reaches it, the state’s election program will provide designated funding for her campaign.
So far Cohen is the only announced Democrat seeking Kennedy’s seat.
On the Republican side two candidates, both Shoreline businessmen have emerged, Adam Greenberg and Jerry Mastrangelo, both first time candidates. Mastrangelo is an owner of Planet Fitness gyms and Greenberg is the founder and CEO of LuRong Living, a diet supplement manufactured by his nutritional and wellness company. We will have stories on each of them in the future.
A State Budget Discussion
As for the state budget (Connecticut was the last state in the nation to adopt one and then under duress), Cohen said as she visits the towns in the 12th District and talks to people, she has found that it is a major topic on the minds of voters.
“We need to find ways to have both sides of the aisle collaborate. The tone at the national level trickles down to the state level,” she observed.
Cohen was a marketing and global planning manager at the Stanley Works of New Britain before founding her bagel company.
“I believe that my experience as a small business owner, as well as my corporate background, give me a unique perspective on what we need to grow our economy in Connecticut. Small companies make up over 99 percent of Connecticut businesses, and yet far too many roadblocks are in place that stifle their success. Removing barriers to growth will help create jobs and as a pro-business Democrat I am committed to bringing my skill set to Hartford to help revive our state’s economy,” she said in a recent press release.
She and her husband Rob have three children, Aiden, Aislin and Ryan, who attend Guilford public schools. Her children swim for the Branford Soundview YMCA Stingrays swim team and are active in Guilford’s community sporting leagues.
Scanlon & Bloss React
State Rep. Sean Scanlon (D-Guilford, Branford), who previously announced that he did not intend to run for the state senate seat, praised Cohen’s educational skills. He is quoted in her press release. “In difficult budget times, Guilford’s state education funding has been under constant threat the last few years. Senator Kennedy and I have fought tirelessly to successfully reverse cuts to our district and I know Christine will be just as reliable a partner to me in that effort. She understands as both a parent and board of education member how damaging those cuts will be and I know she will work incredibly hard to ensure our schools get their fair share of funding.”
As a member of the Guilford BOE, Cohen is co-chair of the Operations Committee and vice chair of the Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee.
According to Guilford BOE Chair Bill Bloss, “Christine is not afraid to roll up her sleeves and dive into the most complicated instructional and budget issues we face, asking the right questions and bringing a balanced perspective to our important work. She has used her experience as a small business owner in helping to develop more effective programs in our schools at a lower cost. Christine will bring that same experience to Hartford.”