The race in the 36th House District between former news anchor Janet Peckinpaugh and Essex First Selectman Phil Miller started heating up this week.
First there were reports that Peckinpaugh was refusing to allow cameras and any other recording devices into the Feb. 11 debate at the Essex Library, and now a complaint by Democratic State Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo alleges Peckinpaugh made errors on her Federal Elections Commission report related to her 2010 challenge of U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney.
In a letter to the Federal Election Commission, DiNardo asks why 25 percent or nearly $68,090.57 of Peckinpaugh’s expenditures went unexplained. The candidate herself was paid a total of $10,921.82 in disbursements and of this nearly 74 percent or $8,051.21 went unexplained.
“The Democrats in Hartford are afraid that I will be elected to represent the people of Essex, Deep River, Haddam and Chester and this complaint is simply a diversion that will not fool anyone,” Peckinpaugh said Tuesday.
“If there is missing information in the report or there are any shortcomings in the filings, my Treasurer and I will review them and file an amended report with the Federal Election Commission as soon as possible,” she said. “The real issue is who will offer the kind of honest leadership we need in the 36th District and who understands what working people are dealing with each and every day.“
Republican State Chairman Chris Healy also came to Peckinpaugh’s defense Tuesday, saying she spent her campaign funds legally and ethically.
“If the Democrats or her opponent, Congressman Joe Courtney had issues with her reporting, they were free to raise them weeks ago. Instead, they are aiming to distract voters from the real issues, because they are afraid Janet will win,” Healy said.
“Democrats in Connecticut have no place in criticizing anyone on campaign irregularities,“ Healy said. “They wrote the book on it and have a rogue’s gallery of elected leaders who have routinely violated or broken campaign laws.”
Healy and Peckinpaugh called the complaint a distraction from the issues in the race — mainly the state‘s budget crisis.
The issue all candidates on both sides of the aisle agree on is how the state will solve its $3.67 billion budget deficit.
But DiNardo said Peckinpaugh’s reporting is related to the state budget because if she can’t balance her campaign budget, how is she going to help the state balance its budget.
“Starting another run for office when you’re $20,000 in debt from your last run is unconscionable,“ DiNardo said. “These funds could be owed to campaign staffers, vendors, and Connecticut small businesses who helped her campaign. If Peckinpaugh manages the state budget like she managed her campaign budget, we’re all in trouble if she gets to Hartford.”
Peckinpaugh has qualified for public campaign financing in her race for state representative, which means she raised $3,750 in small donations from at least 113 residents in her district and received $19,500 in public funds. Miller has also qualified for $19,500 in public funds. The special election will be held Feb. 22.