In the race to represent the 86th House District, an attorney and union president is challenging a 14-year incumbent and prominent member of the Republican leadership.
For the third time, Democrat Vincent “Vince” Mase Sr. and House deputy Republican Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, will face off Tuesday to represent the district that includes North Branford as well as parts of Guilford, Durham and Wallingford.
Both men have deep ties to the North Branford community.
A 36-year Northford resident, Mase’s children went through the North Branford school system, he said, adding that two of his eight grandchildren currently are in town schools. He was appointed to the Board of Education about two years ago and won reelection last November.
Mase worked as a mail carrier for 30 years and now serves as president of the local union, Branch 19 of the National Association of Mail Carriers, he said. He got his law degree from Quinnipiac University in 2003 and now practices as an attorney, he said.
Meanwhile, Candelora’s family owns two town businesses, the Connecticut Sportsplex, which Candelora operates, and Taconic Wire, a manufacturing business. Candelora previously served on various local boards including North Branford’s Town Council and Zoning Board of Appeals.
When Mase challenged Candelora the first time, in 2016, he petitioned to be on the ballot and won just over 1,400 votes to Candelora’s 8,700, according to the Secretary of State’s online election results.
Mase fared better in his 2018 rematch, the results indicate, running as a Democrat and winning about 36 percent of the vote to Candelora’s 62 percent.
Both candidates say they have the skills and experience to reach across the aisle, with Mase pointing to his years of serving as an arbitration advocate and union president, a role in which has helped negotiate contracts, he said.
Mase thinks he would bring a more positive outlook and better negotiating skills as compared to Candelora, pointing to reports that Ray and Barbara Dalio partly blamed Candelora for their exit from the Partnership of Connecticut, a semi-private initiative where the state matched the millions of dollars donated by the philanthropists to support students in struggling communities.
While Mase agreed Candelora had a valid point in his criticism of the partnership, Mase said he would have better handled the situation and kept the Dalios at the table.
But Candelora defended his criticism of the partnership, which was shielded from the Freedom of Information Act and state ethics laws. He also said his concerns were shared by Democrats.
“The Freedom of Information Act is one of the fundamental premises of good government and I would fight that battle all day long,” Candelora said.
He said he has worked to foster such dialogue during his 10 years in leadership.
As far as which issues he would prioritize, Candelora said the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the “need to look at our health care system” and make sure residents are getting proper preventative care that’s affordable.
For Mase, protecting people from COVID-19 is of primary importance, he said.
He also said he would address unemployment.