SPRAGUE, CT — It’s been almost a week since state Sen. Cathy Osten was ousted as first selectwoman in Sprague, but speculation continues as to what her loss may mean to her colleagues in the General Assembly as they consider their chances of re-election in 2020.
Republican Cheryl Allen Blanchard bested Osten, who held the office for 12 years, by 79 votes.
“You’re in until you’re not in,” Osten said Monday following the unveiling of a new memorial to military veterans in the center of town.
She said there’s nothing she would have changed about how she campaigned and ran the race. She said she could complain about the “nasty tone” from the “other side,” but it doesn’t do any good because she wants the town to be successful.
Was it her decision to vote in favor of Gov. Ned Lamont’s first tolling plan in committee in order to continue the conversation?
“No, but that was a component of this,” Osten said.
She said the school board overspent its budget two years ago, forcing the town to dip into its reserves to cover the cost. Osten said the school board decision wiped out the town’s general fund balance and left it with more than $1 million in red ink.
“It put us into a tailspin,” she added.
The town was forced to turn to the Municipal Accountability Review Board (MARB) for help. The board was set up to help cities and towns in financial distress. Thus far, the board has worked on behalf of Hartford, West Haven, and now Sprague. The town received an interest-free loan and will be out of debt by the end of this fiscal year.
Osten said she’s done what she could to get the town out of debt, including trying to ink a deal to sell scrap metal. However, that contract will need to be signed by the new administration.
Osten handed Blanchard the keys to town hall last Tuesday.
As far as why she lost, Osten said there were also a couple of “social media sites that were not truthful.”
Republican Party Chairman J.R. Romano said his party used social media to their advantage in a race they targeted as a seat they were looking to flip.
“The value of social media is that it allows people to be informed,” Romano said Monday.
Romano said Osten voted for tax increases and her record is why she lost.
The only towns left in Osten’s Senate district that are Democratic are Franklin, Lebanon, and Montville. Norwich did not have a mayoral election this year, but Democrats won a majority on the city council from Republicans. The rest of the towns in Osten’s district are controlled by Republicans.
While Romano doesn’t believe Osten lost solely on the issue of tolls, he thinks Democratic lawmakers need to be worried if there are towns in their districts that turned red last week.
He said Sen. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, should be concerned.
Lesser saw every town in his district turn red, except for Middletown, which could make his vote in favor of tolls more difficult.
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said the Democratic caucus will gather Wednesday to hear from the Lamont administration about its latest transportation plan.
He said the last time they caucused a plan was six months ago when Lamont was pitching 50 toll gantries. That number is down to 14 in the latest proposal that he rolled out last Thursday.
“I still think the best approach to this would be to have a bipartisan bill,” Looney said Monday. “I don’t think it’s governmentally healthy to have it be strictly partisan.”
Looney suggested that a third alternative for transportation funding could be to fund it out of legalizing marijuana and sports gambling.