STAMFORD — With a special state House election on Tuesday, some Stamford residents may be going to the polls to vote for the third time in six months.
After the November elections, a special election took place in March for the state Senate’s 27th District seat. Patricia Billie Miller, who was the representative of the state House’s 145th district, won that election. Now, voters in Stamford’s Waterside and West Side neighborhoods will decide Miller’s replacement this week.
“This race is so important because character matters, and I believe more than ever it matters when we are trying to find someone to represent families who are vulnerable and marginalized in this community,” Corey Paris said. “I’ve been a champion of families. I’ve been a champion of people. I will continue to do that as a public servant.”
Ospina, the Republican candidate, ran against and lost to Miller last year. He said his biggest priorities are lowering taxes for middle-class families, increasing the amount of state funding Stamford receives for education and fixing transportation infrastructure.
He also wants to foster “an atmosphere that motivates companies to stay here in Stamford and grow” and launch a loan program dedicated to small businesses in the area.
“There’s injustice going on. There’s economic injustice, middle-class families that want to improve their lives, and we’re burdened by taxes,” Ospina said. “Businesses … want to grow, but they can’t because of regulations. Even health care costs — they’re soaring.”
Ospina, a U.S. Army veteran, works for Community Health Center but has been on medical leave because of issues related to an inner ear disorder. He is also a member of Stamford’s Social Services Commission.
Ospina has faced criticism from Democrats for attending the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, D.C. that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol. He has stressed that he didn’t participate in the attack that left five people dead.
He described Democrats’ criticisms as “distractions.”
Donald Trump is “no longer president, and there’s current local issues that are more important,” Ospina said.
He said he has told Republicans that if he is elected, he may vote with Democrats on some issues, such as immigration. If he loses, he will likely run as an Independent in his next campaign.
The Democratic candidate in Tuesday’s election, Paris, ran for the state House’s 146th District seat in 2018. David Michel ultimately won that election.
Paris said his priorities include “making sure that we have an all-out campaign in getting people vaccinated” against COVID-19 and expanding voter rights.
But his No. 1 priority is investing in early childhood education.
“We need to ensure that children have comprehensive early childhood education opportunities made available to them because what that will do is not only create a system and an ideal around nurturing and emotional development and mental development but it will also (enable) working families … to go to work and be able to provide for their families, knowing that their children are safe and learning and being prepared … to enter the real world,” he said.
Paris is the director of development for the Children’s Learning Centers of Fairfield County. He also is the vice chairman of the Mayor’s Multicultural Council.
He said the 145th District race is “about values.”
Republicans have knocked city Democrats for endorsing Paris, who returned to Stamford in recent weeks after living in Bridgeport for about a year. He has said that he moved because of a divorce.
On Friday, signs reading, “Say no to Bridgeport’s Corey Paris,” “Say no to Bridgeport corruption” and “Vote JD Ospina,” stood along Havemeyer Lane at the border of Stamford and Greenwich.
A Stamford Republican, Joshua Esses, who ran against Miller in the special state Senate election, filed a complaint against Paris alleging that he engaged in voter fraud by voting in Stamford after moving to Bridgeport.
Paris has said that he always planned to move back to Stamford, and that he voted in Stamford after receiving information from the Secretary of the State’s office indicating that it was OK for him to do so.
Last week, the State Elections Enforcement Commission determined that it was necessary to investigate the complaint, spokesperson Joshua Foley said. It’s unclear how long the investigation will take.
“A complaint is not fact. I’ve done nothing wrong,” Paris said. “And (Republicans) have tried to turn this into a character assassination when it has not needed to be one.”
“First of all, what is wrong with Bridgeport?” he added. “That’s the first thing that we need to talk about because when we start this divisive conversation about Bridgeport being corrupt and … talking about me as an African-American candidate running for office because I temporarily relocated to Bridgeport, there are a lot of people I’m sure in Bridgeport and across Stamford who I’ve spoken to in our district that take offense to that.”
Paris said he has been endorsed by Democratic state officials and lawmakers as well as Connecticut Young Democrats, a group that he led as president for about a year, and the Connecticut Education Association. Ospina has been endorsed by the Stamford Police Association.
The town clerk’s office has issued 302 absentee ballots for the special election, and 114 have been returned, according to a report the office shared with The Stamford Advocate on Friday. Most of the ballots were issued to Democrats.
Staff writer Ken Borsuk contributed to this report.