Tastie Fish had the pleasure of conducting a telephone interview this afternoon with Connecticut State Senator Mae Flexer.
During the wide ranging Q and A, we discussed how she got started in politics, her convincing relection to the State Senate this past November, as well as her concerns and hopes for the people she represents.
This is a Tastie Fish exclusive.
TF: What inspired you to become a politician at such a young age? We read that you joined your Democratic Town Committee when you were 18! At 23 you became the youngest person in the state ever elected as theTown Committee Chairwoman! That’s amazing!
MF: I actually got involved as a teenager because when I was in high school, there was a bunch of us that wanted to fight cuts to the school budget, we were told by a two local politicians that we didn’t have a say because we were young. These two adults were on the town council, and they told us we were wasting our time. A year later, one of those town counselors ran for higher office, and I called his opponent, and asked him “how can I help you”
I worked on that campaign, for the office I hold now. My predecessor Donald Williams was the man I supported.
TF: You were reelected this past November by a considerable (9%)margin. You sealed the election to the tune of roughly four thousand votes. Do you feel that such a large margain of victory demonstrates the confidence your constituents have in your ability to lead, and positively affect policy?
MF: I was very grateful to win by that margin and that we have the support of so many voters in my district.
We faced considerable opposition during the campaign, alot of expenditures were spent by special interest groups to try to beat me. It was a nasty campaign at times. I am very thankful that we won.
TF: Special interest groups? Like who?
MF: I was believe I was targeted by the CBIA for example, they allegedly pledged almost $100,000 to beat me.
TF: So as a member of the Connecticut Senate representing the state’s 29th district, which includes the towns of Brooklyn, Canterbury, Killingly, Mansfield, Putnam, Scotland, Thompson, and Windham, what are your priorities at this point in time? What changes are in the process of being made?
MF: There is a number of priorities. Above all, I have to make sure we have an economy that works for everyone, I represent a district where a lot of people struggle to live and get by.
So a system where everyone has a chance is important, and we have to make sure people have every opportunity. I believe education, and higher education is important because I represent more college students than any other legislator in Connecticut.
TF: What is your view of the educational system in Connecticut? What can be fixed? What can be kept? Betsy Devos is close to being confirmed as the Education Secretary, what do you believe that will mean for Connecticut Residents?
MF: If she becomes Education Secretary, it will be dangerous. She does not have a grasp on the basic requirements that the government has for education, or special education. Her confirmation would mean we have leader who does not understand how education works, and a person who clearly wants to send money to private interests. I think in Connecticut, we need to do a better job of directing our resources to the people who have the least means, we have the widest achievement gap in the country because we have the widestwealth gap! We need to shake up the system, apportion money to places where it’s needed. I want the kids I represent to have same opportunities as wealthier communities such as Avon and Grenage.
TF: Your machinations in regards to gun control have been significant, earlier this year you spearheaded a bill that now requires individuals with a temporary restraining order against them to give up their firearms. You were quoted at the time as saying “Our state laws are the weakest at the moment that is the most dangerous for victims of domestic violence”.
Could you expand on that? Do you believe the law made an immediate impact?
MF: Absolutely I do, I am so proud that Connecticut finally closed that weak point in our law that was dangerous. Thankfully now this law is in place, and making a difference. Any firearms that a respondent may own will be turned over for the duration the order is place. This gives victims of domestic violence the security they deserve.
TF: Connecticut evidently is considering tolls for the highways, is that something you believe will actually happen?
MF: That is one of my least favorite issues. Because I represent a district where there is diverse opinion on the matter. If the tolls are on the border, that’s a concern because I have quite a bit of border towns in my district. I am concerned about low income citizens ability to pay tolls. I represent people that struggle, and over the course of a week long commute, even small tolls add up. On the other hand, we have to be investing in our transportation infastructure, so all around it’s a tough issue.
TF: In light of President Trump’s executiveorder, refugees from a select number of Muslim majority countries will be banned from traveling to the United States.
In your opinion, what does this mean for Connecticut? What can the lawmakers in Hartford do about this in regards to the refugees that live here, and those that wish to travel here to attend Yale, or Uconn, or work for tech/science companies?
What of the foreign nationals who live here with valid visas?
MF: I think what the President has done in the last couple of days is a direct attack on American values. I am the daughter of an immigrant, and I think this order demonstrates a lack of understanding in egards to how throughly vetted refugees are in this country. Connecticut is one of the places where immigrants are welcome, I applaud Governor Malloy for his service, and his efforts on this issue.
We are a nation of immigrants, and must continue to fight for the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. –DM
— Governor Dan Malloy (@GovMalloyOffice) January 28, 2017
It’s really disheartening to watch what is happening in this country. We have not learned from our history, in the 1930s and the 1940s we turned away a lot of refugees that ended up being victims of the Holocaust.
TF: There is talk in Washington DC of repealing Obama Care, do you see that having an immediate impact on affordable care holders in CT?
MF: Yes, if the Affordable Health Care Act is repealed, it will have a dramatic impact on people in Connecticut. I have recently been introducing bills, that will protect women’s health programs. Everything from breast cancer screenings to contraception and breast feeding mothers. These are the sorts of things we can try to protect in Connecticut no matter what the President does.
We also have to consider people with preexisting conditions, and what can be done to ensure those people are taken care.I am afraid that those people will be in trouble if a repeal takes place. We have done research on it, people with preexisting conditions are higher risk, and more expensive to insure. Our pool is Connecticut is not big enough to warp the total cost, so yes, there is concern.
TF: Are you happy in your current position? Would you ever seek higher public office?
MF: I am very happy in my current position, I represent the best part of Connecticut in my opinon. I am grateful to be serving in the Connectict legislature, and improving quality of life for everyone.
I am happy.
TF: As rising female politician, how did you feel about the women’s marches across the country the day after the new President was sworn in?
MF: I thought the marches were amazing. I was so glad to see people from all over the country, and all over the world. We have all been out there over the last 10 days scrutinizing the changes the President has been making. I just hope the people out there demonstrating for American values will be inspired to make change, mabye even run for offices themselves.
TF: If you could say anything to Connecticut residents who are fearful of the changes being made in Washington DC, and the possibility of these new measures affecting how our state operates, what would you say?
MF: I would say speak up, speak as loudly as you can, talk with like minded people, reach out to elected officials. Many of us are attempting to find ways to stand up to the Trump agenda. We are doing our best to make sure that Connecticut values will win the day.
For those that wish to support the inspirational Mae Flexer, here is some information to help!
You can follow her on Twitter here
For more information, please visit her profile on the Connecticut government website!