VIDEO: Candidates for 18th Senate and 43rd House districts debate

Stonington — The six candidates running to represent the town in the General Assembly and as probate judge participated in a debate Tuesday night.

The event — sponsored by The League of Women Voters of Southeastern CT and the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, and held at the Dragonfly Equestrian Center — had a capacity of 55 invited people to ensure social distancing but was broadcast live on The Day’s website, the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce Facebook page and WBLQ radio. It will be rebroadcast on SECTV on Wednesday. It was the only scheduled debate between the candidates.

Incumbent Republican state Sen. Heather Somers of Groton and her Democratic challenger, Bob Statchen of Stonington, discussed issues including racism, criminal justice reform, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and others. The 18th District comprises eight communities, including Groton and Stonington.  

Somers said it has been an honor and privilege to represent the district and said she has done so impartially with the most bipartisan voting record in the Senate. She said she has taken the voices of the people of the district to Hartford and spoke in their support, even when she was at odds with her party.

Statchen, an attorney, business professor and Connecticut Air National Guard colonel, said he is running because these are difficult times and he thinks he can help. He said he is not partisan by nature and his parents were Republicans.

"But Republicans have lost their moral compass," he said, saying they have voted against family medical leave, a living wage and are trying to destroy the Affordable Care Act.   

The only tense moment of the debate came at the end, when Somers criticized Statchen for putting her photo on a flier that stated "Heather Somers is a Trump Enabler." She charged that Statchen had "weaponized" her image and said this is what women have had to deal with in business and politics for years.

Somers called the recently passed police accountability law a "horrible bill" even though she said it did some good things. Statchen called it a good first step because accountability is important for improving performance but added that nothing is perfect. 

Both agreed the state has done a good job responding to the COVID-19 pandemic but cautioned a second wave is coming. They also agree the state must address the impact of climate change and agreed systemic racism exists in the community.

Somers said she is discouraged "by the name-calling and labeling of individuals." Statchen said Black Lives Matter has brought forward issues that need to be addressed and that the state should lead the way with more equitable education, housing and transportation programs. Somers said the legislature has done a lot to address the issue, such as creating apprenticeship programs for socio-economic challenged areas, but still has a lot to do.

Also debating were incumbent Democratic state Rep. Kate Rotella of Mystic and her Republican challenger, Greg Howard of Pawcatuck. The 43rd District is composed of Stonington and North Stonington. 

Howard, a veteran Stonington police detective, said his top legislative priority would be making changes to the controversial police accountability bill, budget accountability and addressing rising taxes, as well as rising health care costs for small businesses and the time and expense it takes them to comply with regulations.

Rotella said she would continue to work for health care coverage for everyone, lower prescription drug costs and legalizing sports and internet gaming. She pointed to her work on the first two issues in her first term, as well as bringing funding to Stonington and North Stonington, such as $600,000 for sidewalks in Pawcatuck.

Howard said he would work to change some aspects of the police accountability law, such as the provision that ended qualified immunity for officers. He said he supports other aspects of the law, including mandatory cruiser and body cameras and mental health checkups for officers, adding that street-level officers did not have a seat at the table when the law was being written.

“The people of the 43rd District can now give officers a seat at that table,” he said.

Rotella said people in many professions have a legal and financial accountability and pointed out the law does not make officers personally accountable financially but the municipalities for which they work.

Asked about legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, Rotella said there first needs to be a valid way for police officers and employers to test if someone is under the influence. Howard said he never has arrested someone for committing a serious crime because they are using marijuana but he said that if the state does choose to sell and tax marijuana, it must funnel revenue to the interdiction of hard drugs whose use he said would increase.

Asked how the legislature can lead an economic recovery, Howard said there has to be accountability for spending instead of raising taxes. He also suggested rolling back regulations. Rotella recommended supporting small businesses with the programs they need, skilled workers and affordable college. She also recommended looking at every line item in the budget for cuts.

Howard said he is opposed to highway tolls, while Rotella said they have to be part of a comprehensive highway improvement plan.

The two candidates for judge of the southeastern Connecticut regional Probate District, Democrat Elizabeth Ladwig Leamon of Stonington and Republican Sal Ritacco of Pawcatuck, also debated. The court serves Stonington, North Stonington, Groton and Ledyard.

Leamon said she has practiced in 26 of the probate courts in the state and she has seen what works and what doesn't and she can bring that experience and knowledge of the law to help the community understand probate issues. Both Leamon and Ritacco supported continuing to hold virtual hearings, if people wish, to make the court more efficient.

Ritacco said he has resolved hundreds of cases in his practice and he would be looking to do that as probate judge. He said he would like to set up forums for local attorneys to help their clients plan their estate. He said this would help prevent difficult and tragic cases from having to reach the court. Both said they would be in court full time but maintain their private practices.

Source: https://www.theday.com/local-news/20201013/video-candidates-for-18th-senate-and-43rd-house-districts-debate

Ritacco would be excellent probate judge - Gerald Del Piano

I have been an attorney for over 43 years, handling trials throughout Connecticut. I became co-counsel with Attorney Sal Ritacco on many contentious cases. During the past six years, I have had many opportunities to see him interact with clients, witnesses, judges and other attorneys.

Based on this experience, I can state unequivocally that Sal has the skill and aptitude for this job. He has other qualities that set him apart from many other lawyers. He is calm, an excellent listener and communicator who is sensitive to the needs of others, someone you can rely on. I have never seen him belittle or disparage anyone, even when that person may have deserved to be chastised. Sal’s honesty and integrity are beyond reproach.

Sal has always been completely vested in the town of Stonington. He grew up in Pawcatuck from a humble working-class family, worked his way through law school and earned everything he has through hard work. Despite a busy law practice, he finds time to raise money for local charities and promote the prosperity of the town with the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Commission.

Sal Ritacco has earned your vote and endorsement.

Gerald Del Piano
East Hartford

Source: https://www.theday.com/letters-to-the-editor/20201014/ritacco-would-be-excellent-probate-judge

Letter: Ritacco has this liberal’s vote for probate judge - Dan Cawley

People over politics.

I am writing to address the upcoming election this November in regards to the position of probate judge for Southeastern Connecticut Regional Probate Court District 30. In today’s society where partisan politics often dominate the scene, much of a candidate’s message and platform can be overshadowed. I strongly encourage the residents voting for the next judge of probate in the 30th District to rise above partisan politics and cast their vote for Salvatore Ritacco on Nov. 3. I have known Sal for over 25 years, and he is a tireless worker who is dedicated, loyal and committed to the people he serves.

Sal’s dedication, commitment and level of care go far above and beyond the expectations for someone in his position as an attorney in Pawcatuck. This is the norm for Sal because he has a genuine interest in helping others and serving his community and the surrounding areas. This is evidenced by the numerous legal, business and nonprofit organizations that Sal is currently an active member of.

Sal is a person who gets things done because he doesn’t allow politics to get in the way of helping others. He is someone who brings people together and is willing to work with everyone in whatever capacity needed. Sal will actively listen to the concerns of the people he serves, while keeping their interests and needs at the top of his priorities. As a lifelong resident of Pawcatuck, Sal has been an asset for many years to the community he serves and calls home. The residents of Groton, North Stonington and Ledyard would reap the same benefits the town of Stonington has reaped over the years by electing Sal as their next judge of probate.

As a staunch liberal Democrat who has taught and coached sports within Stonington Public Schools for the past 16 years, Republican candidate for Judge of Probate in the 30th District, Sal Ritacco, has my unwavering support.

Dan Cawley
West Warwick

Source: https://www.thewesterlysun.com/opinion/letters_to_editor/letter-ritacco-has-this-liberal-s-vote-for-probate-judge/article_1666b6c0-0b55-11eb-bb1f-4bb8ddab9b9d.html

Letter: Sal Ritacco would be an excellent judge of probate - Gerald Del Piano

Your service is often a source of inspiration. It simplifies our lives and makes usually complicated processes easy.

I have been an attorney for over 43 years and have handled trials throughout the state of Connecticut. I became co-counsel with attorney Ritacco on several contentious cases. During the past six years, I have had many opportunities to see him interact with clients, witnesses, judges and other attorneys.

Based on my experience, I can now state unequivocally that not only does he have the skill and aptitude for the job but he has many other qualities that set him apart from many other lawyers. He is very level-headed and sensitive to the needs of clients and others. He is an excellent listener and communicator and someone you can rely on. I have never ever seen him belittle or disparage anyone, even when that person may have deserved to be chastised. Finally, his honesty and integrity are beyond reproach.

What is important for you and the other residents of Stonington to consider is that he is and has been completely vested in your community. He grew up in Pawcatuck, coming from a humble working-class family. He worked his way through college and law school and has earned everything he has through hard work. Despite having a very active law practice, he still finds time to raise money for local charities and promote the continued prosperity of your town with the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Commission.

Stonington is very fortunate to have Sal Ritacco, and he has earned your vote.

Gerald Del Piano
East Hartford, Conn.

Source: https://www.thewesterlysun.com/opinion/letters_to_editor/letter-sal-ritacco-would-be-an-excellent-judge-of-probate/article_02af201a-0766-11eb-971b-4ff91da0b218.html

Letter: Ritacco for Probate Judge - Diane Barber

Running for probate judge is not an easy thing to do. It is not a sexy position, and most people do not know who their probate judge is: until you need one.

I was fortunate to meet Sal during his last campaign. My son, Brandon Marley, a local attorney, and I were opposing candidates in 2015. I was the Republican victor who learned my fair share of campaigning.

In 2017, despite being on opposite parties, Brandon and Sal became friends and co-counsel working out of Sal’s office in Pawcatuck. I learned more about Sal during this campaign, while helping out in his office, only to see he puts extreme effort in everything he does. His clients and his community, but also his campaign. Sal puts in a considerable amount of time in his practice to keep on top of several legal fields. He collaborates with other attorneys on cases and spends a considerable amount of time preparing cases so he can effectively and efficiently resolve them without costly trials.

On Nov. 3, I am voting for Sal not because of his party, but because I have learned first-hand his unparalleled work ethic and his passion for his clients and his community. If my family has a case going through probate court, I want Sal there to help resolve any issues.

Diane Barber
Mystic

Source: https://www.thewesterlysun.com/opinion/letters_to_editor/letter-ritacco-for-probate-judge/article_5bf4b4a2-0845-11eb-bb28-3b369a71ccf0.html

Republicans endorse Ritacco to run for regional probate judge

Republicans have endorsed attorney Salvatore Ritacco of Pawcatuck as their candidate for probate judge for the Southeastern Connecticut Regional Probate District.

The court serves Groton, Ledyard, North Stonington and Stonington. Ritacco has run his own law firm for the past 12 years.

In announcing his endorsement, Ritacco said one concern he hopes to address if elected will be to better protect the elderly and their families by having a forum for local attorneys and the public to discuss the probate process and estate planning before it is too late.

“Whether probating an estate, an adoption, a conservatorship or a guardianship, you’re handling some hard topics in some of the most difficult times of someone’s life. As probate judge, you can make the process a little easier,” he said. “It’s a judge’s job to make tough decisions, but you can still be a friend. I intend to put in the time necessary to be that friend to help make the process easier.” 

In addition to belonging to numerous legal organizations, Ritacco is a board member of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce and the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, a corporate member of the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center and a chamber delegate to the Stonington Economic Development Commission.

Democrats have endorsed attorney Elizabeth Ladwig Leamon of Stonington as their candidate.

Source: https://www.theday.com/article/20200709/NWS01/200709516