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Formica seeks fourth term as state senator from the 20th District

A small business owner for nearly 40 years, Republican 20th District state Sen. Paul Formica has firsthand experience with the hardships that many small businesses, especially restaurants, have faced this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Formica, a resident of East Lyme and owner of Flanders Fish Market, has grappled with the closures, re-openings and restructuring of his business to fit state mandates meant to protect residents from the deadly coronavirus. His perspective as a small-businesses owner is something he hopes to continue to bring to Hartford as he runs for his fourth term in the state Senate, representing Old Saybrook, Old Lyme, East Lyme, Waterford, New London, Salem, Bozrah and Montville.

Before serving in the Senate. Formica served seven years as the first selectman of East Lyme and also served on the town’s Zoning Commission and Board of Finance.

“I still find it gratifying and exciting, and I love the opportunity to be able to help people. I think my experience as a small business person, as a family man, as a single dad and as an elected official who works both side of the aisle will come in handy as we move into the next phase of this recovery,” said Formica of possibly beginning a fourth term. 

If re-elected, he said, he hopes to use his background in customer service and ability to work with Democrats to engage in difficult conversations about the state’s budget, renewable energy, health care and tourism.

“I think it’s important to bring people together,” said the senator. “I think my background in customer service and my background being able to work across the aisle is hugely important, especially coming up on a time where we’re going to have to make big decisions and have everybody at the table having open conversations on such things as the economy, the budget, energy.”

Formica commended Gov. Ned Lamont for implementing strict guidelines that have help keep the number of COVID-19 cases down in the region. 

Formica said he hopes to continue conversations with agencies such as the state Department of Economic and Community Development, which he worked with earlier this year to help provide relief to Mystic Aquarium, to help industries that are suffering with relief and benefits packages.

As co-chair and founder of the General Assembly's tourism caucus, he said that helping the entertainment, arts and tourism industries has always been a main focus of his.

He said he also hopes to continue working with other legislators to encourage constituents to follow COVID-19 protocols to stay safe, and to ensure that supporting businesses and keeping the economy open can be done safely.

If re-elected, Formica hopes to have conversations in Hartford about new health care models that the state can participate in to find opportunities for health care for all, a new tax structure that implements fairer taxes without driving out the highest earners and “ways to move our economy forward in a way that supports our businesses, including our larger employers like the two resort casinos we have here,” he said.

As a ranking member on the Energy and Technology Committee and on the Appropriations Committee, he said he also plans to hold energy companies such as like Eversource accountable, with measures like those passed this year that provides for performance- based standards for utility companies and penalties like those for lengthy power outages, which the region saw in August. He also plans to advocate for better communication between utility companies and the municipalities and ratepayers they serve.

For smaller businesses, like his own, Formica recognizes the unusual hardships many owners and workers have faced this year.

“The pandemic has only magnified the issues businesses have long faced and added new challenges we must overcome every day,” he said. “Small businesses push forward because we have so many people counting on us: our workers, our families and our communities. The legislature can help by reducing burdens faced by businesses and avoiding damaging new taxes and inflicting painful tax increases on working- and middle-class families whenever possible.”

Formica said the legislature can also help businesses with their plans for reopening and responding to the changes the pandemic has created.

He and his Democratic opponent, Martha Marx, both support online gaming in the state.

Earlier this year, Formica voted against the police accountability bill that came before the Senate in a special session.

The senator said he voted against the bill because of the provision to roll back qualified immunity for law enforcement officers.

Formica said “this particular provision of the bill will encourage frivolous lawsuits against even good police officers and has already led to a decline in police officer recruitment and retention.”

Though he voted against the bill, he said that in terms of police reform, “we know we need to do better.”

Formica said that the Black Lives Matter movement that swept the nation following the death of George Floyd was a necessary response and said the movement “sparked a vitally important and long overdue conversation on race and equality.”

"There's no room for racism in this country, in this state, anywhere, I think everyone should have the same opportunity to move forward,” Formica said. “We live in the greatest country in the world and there's no reason that each and every person shouldn’t feel that way.” 

The senator said he feels strongly that the state needs to focus on creating equal opportunities in education, workforce training, job growth and health equity.

Formica said that he is “very disappointed” with the presidential election and “the divisive and crude rhetoric in our nation today.”

He did not directly say whom he would be voting for in the presidential race, but rather said that he “like many voters, am weighing how to utilize my right to vote.”

t.hartz@theday.com

 

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