Josh Elliott, a 31-year-old Hamden attorney and small business owner, announced Monday that he will challenge House Speaker Brendan Sharkey for his 88th District seat.
Elliott said he expects to launch an August primary challenge against fellow Democrat Sharkey, who has represented the Hamden district since 2000. Sharkey, 54, has been the Speaker of the House since 2013 and from 2009 until 2013 served as the Majority Leader.
Sharkey has said he intends to run for a third term as speaker next year. But in order to get there he will need to win re-election in his district.
Elliott runs two family owned natural food stores with his mother, The Common Bond Market in Shelton and Thyme & Season in Hamden.
“Hamden voters deserve more from their representatives than delays and excuses,” Elliott said. “Our current leadership has too often displayed ambivalence when action was needed on core economic justice and budget issues, even in the face of strong public support.
“Speaker Sharkey is supporting more crippling cuts to core essential services and layoffs, and has told us that asking the most fortunate 1 percent to pay back into the system that helped facilitate their success is a non-starter.”
Elliott said Sharkey “is leading the Democratic caucus to balance the budget on the backs of the middle class and the most vulnerable in our community.”
However, Elliott conceded that “trying to topple the Speaker of the House is a very difficult challenge. But watching what goes on, or what doesn’t go on in Hartford, forced my involvement.”
He said the fact that Democratic leaders and Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy “weren’t even talking to each other” about the state’s budget issues was unacceptable. “You need to be at the table talking,” Elliott said.
Sharkey said he continues “to be focused on fighting for the working families of Hamden by capping the car tax, providing more state funding for property tax relief, and protecting funding for our public schools.”
The speaker also said he is proud to run on his record of progressive leadership, “including championing the strongest gun safely law in the country, supporting and protecting Connecticut’s landmark clean election law, raising the minimum wage, and repealing the death penalty.”
Elliott is hoping to tap into the frustration demonstrated by a recent poll of 600 likely Connecticut voters that found that regardless of an individual’s party, voters are casting a wide net of blame that defies their own self-reported partisan leanings when it comes to the budget and the economy.
The poll, conducted by Myers Research and Strategic Services, found voters’ fiscal sensitivity remains salient, and the budget and tax battles, coupled with the still sluggish economy, have fueled their anger and produced a palpable sense of frustration that legislators refuse to break from the status quo and consider new ways of doing business and creating new jobs.
Most concerning for incumbents, however, is that when asked in the poll if they would re-elect their representative or senator, pluralities favor someone new. Additionally, those polled said they do not blame one person or party for the current budget mess.
Instead, the poll said, the General Assembly as a whole earns deeply negative job reviews, with 73 percent of voters giving them just fair or poor ratings, as well as majorities giving negative job reviews to their own district’s state representative and state senator.
Six-in-10 voters in the poll say they are all to blame — Democrats and Republicans. Notably, regardless of an individual’s party, voters are casting a wide net of blame that defies their own self-reported partisan leanings.
Sharkey was re-elected to his 88th District seat, for the eighth time, in November 2014, defeating Republican Matthew Corcoran by a 2-1 margin.
While this is Ellliott’s first attempt at a state office, he isn’t new to local politics as he was recently among a group who won a primary to represent the 9th District in Hamden on the Democratic Town Committee.