“It’s tied into stuff that had nothing to do with me,“ Fontana said Monday in a phone interview following the announcement of his state Senate bid from the steps of Wallingford Town Hall.
“Middle class families and seniors were frustrated and angry about the inability of government to address their problems,“ Fontana said. “They were looking for a change.“
Fontana lost by about 6 percent of the vote to state Rep. Dave Yaccarino, R-North Haven. He was not alone. Fourteen other Democratic incumbents lost their re-election bids that year too.
Fontana, the former chairman of the Energy & Technology Committee, said if state Sen. Leonard Fasano, R-North Haven, had an opponent in 2010 he probably wouldn’t have been re-elected either with the anti-incumbent atmosphere.
Fontana, a Democrat, will challenge Fasano, who has held the 34th Senate seat for more than 10 years.
“Everywhere I go in Wallingford, East Haven, North Haven and Durham, people get it,“ Fontana said in his announcement speech. “They still believe in the American Dream: that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can get a good education, find a decent job, buy a home, raise a family, and secure a place in the middle class.”
“Unfortunately, they see that Dream slipping away, and while the Malloy administration, and Democrats in the General Assembly, have started to reverse this slide, they don’t see enough politicians doing something about it. And they want a change,” Fontana added.
Fasano was not immediately available for comment Monday, but Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. was quick to send out a statement criticizing Fontana for his 14 year career in the state House.
“Steve Fontana was defeated in his reelection bid for his North Haven State Representative seat in large part because of his votes for government spending increases and tax hikes that have crippled middle class voters in his district,” Labriola said.
Fontana dismissed the remark as “stale rhetoric” and said he took numerous votes over the 14 years he served in the legislature and they were all under Republican governors.
Labriola said Fontana will have a difficult time running on his record since it includes voting in favor of health care reform and on energy legislation at the time Connecticut’s electricity rates were among the highest in the nation.
“I was responsible for helping to run government,” Fontana said of his tenure and votes. “As State Representative, I took on big insurance and energy corporations and worked to protect the economic security and rights of ordinary consumers.”
It’s too soon to say how many competitive races there will be for the 36 state Senate seats.
Sen. President Donald Williams he’s focused on the upcoming legislative session and hasn’t had time to think about the campaigns. He said they plan to have qualified candidates like Fontana running, but its too soon to say how many will step forward.
Fontana said he’s getting an early start because it’s not easy to raise enough small campaign contributions in order to qualify for the $85,000 in public financing.