Frenchtown celebrates Democracy Day

Just two weeks before Election Day, candidates took a break from campaigning to spend a morning with hundreds of people who can't vote for them. At least, not yet.

Frenchtown School celebrated Democracy Day Tuesday, and candidates for various offices attended or sent representatives to read to students, answer questions and participate in a mock debate.

Republican Steve Obsitnik, challenging incumbent Democrat Jim Himes in the 4th District, was joined by fellow Republicans David Rutigliano, T.R. Rowe and Tony Hwang.

Democrat Amy Todisco, running against Rowe for judge of probate, joined Barbara Maltby, representing the Chris Murphy for Senate campaign, for the Democrats. Himes attended for part of the day, reading to a group of students. Todisco answered questions on his behalf from students.

Students were interested in how the candidates had prepared themselves for public office.

Obsitnik said his career had made him ready for public service.

"You need to develop discipine and a good work ethic," he said. "These habits helped me get into the U.S. Naval Academy, and then five years in the Navy gave me responsibility."

Maltby said Murphy had been raised into public service.

"He has taken the time to educate himself in the political process."

Obsitnik, seeking his first elected office, admitted to being a little apprehensive when he spoke to large groups.

"Sometimes I get nervous, but it's also an honor," he said. "I was also nervous going to sea and going under the polar ice cap. So after doing those things, it's more of an honor to speak to you."

Maltby said she was used to addressing groups of children.

"I have 10 grandchildren, so this group is only a little larger," she said.

Todisco surprised the students when she told them her political hero was their age.

"A girl named Maleeva from Pakistan was shot because she spoke against the Taliban," she said. "She stood up for the rights of women and was shot for it."

Hwang said his father and his teachers were his heroes.

"Coming to this country as an immigrant, not speaking a word of English, we had some great teachers," he said. "They educated us; now we should do our part to support them in what they do."

Finally, all the candidates agreed that the plethora of negative campaign advertisements was not helpful to voters.

"I always subscribe to the Golden Rule, and negative ads are the exact opposite," Hwang said. "They have no place in a campaign. You should have a record and values you believe in."

Maltby said Murphy had a record of positive campaigning, but had been forced into a negative campaign duel with his opponent, Republican Linda McMahon.

"In previous campaigns, Chris never ran a negative ad," she said. "But it's hard to be passive when the other person is attacking you. Chris had to respond, even though he didn't want to."��