Door-to-door, Boucher seeks 2nd Senate term
Published 4:57 pm, Thursday, October 7, 2010
Sometimes a grueling political campaign gets state Sen. Toni Boucher down. At times, attacks by opponents and partisan bickering distracts Boucher from the reason she got into politics, which she said is to help others. So when she tires of the negative aspects of election season, she goes door-to-door.
"It never fails to pick up my spirits," said the Wilton Republican. "For some reason. I must be crazy that way. But the people are generally pretty wonderful."
Boucher, 60, whose high energy and positive outlook make her campaigning easier, said that even if the person behind the door doesn't agree with her, it is an excellent opportunity to learn from them.
"It is about listening as much as you can, to engage them and to listen to what their concerns are," said Boucher. "I get a lot of information that way that is very helpful with regards to being an advocate on their behalf. Sometimes they may talk about issues with the train system or with education and that is really important to make note of and bring with you."
Boucher, running this year for a second term in the state Senate in the 26th District after being elected in 2008, headed out to go door-to-door in Westport on Tuesday morning along with Kristin LaFleur, a Westporter who has served on the town's Board of Education and ran for the second selectman seat last year. The multi-town legislative district encompasses Westport, Wilton, Ridgefield, and parts of Weston, Redding, Bethel and New Canaan.
With a soft rain falling, Boucher traversed Treadwell Avenue and nearby Birchwood Lane. Her opponent, for the second straight election, is Westport native John Hartwell.
Boucher was formerly a state representative for the 143rd House District for 12 years before running for the open seat in 2008. She was born in Italy, is married and the mother of three children. She served on the Wilton Board of Education from 1986-1994 and the state Board of Education from 1995-1996, before being elected to the state House of Representatives. She is currently the assistant minority leader of the Senate.
She works for the Commonfund Institute, a $28 billion nonprofit fund manager for educational, nonprofit and health institutions. She also has an MBA from the University of Connecticut, is a licensed broker and spent years as a corporate manager.
Going door-to-door in the morning and afternoon, when many people are at work, can be difficult, but Boucher said it is important to let people know she is willing to listen.
"I've received some great e-mails and phone calls when you leave stuff with your email and phone number. They want to call you and follow up with you," Boucher said. "They know you've stopped by their house and the say, `This is my gripe, these are what my concerns are.' "
Boucher said she takes what she learns from her constituents and uses it while in Hartford. Every year she puts together a "bill folder" with ideas for things she wants to get changed or accomplished. She has helped a military father by passing a bill so that his son, and others in the armed forces, who are leasing a car won't have to pay taxes on it while serving out of the country. This year, Boucher has made an extra effort to assist those who are facing financial difficulties because of the tough economy.
As Boucher made her way down Treadwell Avenue, she remarked that in the past, many seniors would be home in the mornings. But now, almost all the homes are empty since, she said, more people are working later into life.
As they approached one house, Boucher asked LaFleuer, "How old is Patty? 67?" referencing the homeowner on the list of voter information that Boucher brings with her when campaigning. "Well you know, 67-year-olds are working. A lot of people are working that you wouldn't typically see because of this economy. They've had to go back to work or stay at their job much longer than they had anticipated. I can't believe how many people say `I can't afford to retire,' so we understand that situation."
Boucher continued down Treadwell, where she encountered another familiar feature of the campaign trail -- a barking dog -- but no one else at home. Dropping a dog treat into her bag that includes her walking card and candy, Boucher explained she often gives treats to her furry friends.
"If there is a doggy in the household, we always ask permission of the homeowner and typically we have them give it to the dog, because they may not like it or the animal may not like it," she said. If there were a pet vote, she said, "I'd have it."
This year, Boucher has heard a lot of passion from her two-legged constituents -- the economy and jobs are the main concerns. While education and the environment are still important, financial issues are dominating discussions she has. "I think they are concerned by what's happening in Connecticut, but it is being overshadowed by the tremendous discontent about what is happening in Washington," she said.
"The overspending, that's what they point to, the amount of debt that is being accumulated, that in the end someone is going to have to pay for it," Boucher said. "But in the end, Connecticut is even worse. In fact, Connecticut hasn't really cut back, they've spent more in each year even though other states have cut back."
Boucher said the massive debt staring state residents in the face is a top concern.
Moving on to Birchwood Lane, Boucher approaches a retired resident who greets her with a smile. Boucher is well known in Westport and around her district and those who she sees on her door-to-door campaign often have interacted with her before.
This Birchwood Lane woman, who would not give her name, met Boucher at an Al's Angels event and said she was impressed with her. She said that she is concerned with the fact many people are afraid of not being able to pay bills, "And if you are aware of that, that's a good thing," she said.
A little farther down Birchwood, Boucher met a woman who is an entrepreneur and is afraid that taxes will force her to move out of town. "One of the most important things is to create jobs. I am going to need help, I want to do my business her," said the woman, who also declined to be identified. But in order for that to happen, she needs other business to buy her product.
Boucher said taxes have increased and it is driving small business out.
The woman also said it is important to have a balanced General Assembly.
Boucher said she agreed. "We need to be business friendly. And I don't care if it is Republican or Democrat, whatever side of the aisle, whether it is Jonathan [Steinberg] or Nitzy Cohen, or whether it is myself or the other guy, you have to have a culture and a thinking that is pro-business, pro-jobs and what you propose or what you support should be that is the number one thinking," said Boucher.
Boucher said she hopes to be able to continue helping others, by "cutting through the red tape of government," the most important part of her job. Recently, she helped assist a married couple who were both unemployed and on food stamps, work out an issue to obtain an unemployment check that helped save their house. After helping them, the husband got on the phone and said, "I just wanted to tell you one thing, vie never voted for a republican, ever, ever. But I guess now I'm going to have to vote for you."
Boucher, although a Republican, believes she has the ability to do the most for the voters of her district. Although she ended up winning over another voter, that wasn't what she thought was important.
"That was not the point of any of it but I just had to laugh because when you are in the position itself, you don't check what a person's party is," Boucher said. "You have to take care of their problems."