Gadkar-Wilcox seeks structural reforms

Sujata Gadkar-Wilcox
Sujata Gadkar-Wilcox

Having spent the past five months knocking on doors, hosting coffee gatherings and speaking to voters about their concerns, Sujata Gadkar-Wilcox is hoping not much changes after Election Day.

“If I win, that’s the kind of thing I want to keep doing,” the Democratic challenger in the 123rd District said. “That’s what politics should be. There is so much nuance in Trumbull. People are informed and willing to listen and they are looking for someone who can be a problem solver. If anything, running for office has made me love Trumbull even more.”

Gadkar-Wilcox, who teaches constitutional law at Quinnipiac, admitted being at a disadvantage running against three-term incumbent David Rutigliano. But she said her background as an academic has resonated with the people she has spoken to on the campaign trail.

“For me, being an academic is not about sitting in an ivory tower, it’s about engaging with the community,” she said. “I start by telling people I teach constitutional law, and that tends to be what people want to talk about. They are saying that we can’t have a community that is too divided and with such inflammatory language.”

While the divisiveness in Washington, D.C., is more pronounced than in Connecticut, the divisive tone filters down to people’s day-to-day lives, Gadkar-Wilcox said.

“People even in Trumbull feel like their conversations with friends and family and neighbors get shut down because they are hyper-partisan,” she said. “Most people don’t like that. People understand that there won’t be agreement across the board, but feel like simply disagreeing shouldn’t be a problem.”

But if people have been discussing political philosophies, they also are concerned about day-to-day issues, like taxes and roads. The solutions to those concerns will require ground-up reform, she said.

“These are genuinely complex issues that will require time and genuine compromise,” she said. “But the priority is making the kind of structural changes to attract businesses and individuals to Connecticut.”

For example, Gadkar-Wilcox said governor candidate Ned Lamont’s plan to reform property tax, combined with a progressive income tax, could have a substantial impact on the majority of taxpayers.

“A progressive income tax would be helpful for the middle class, but it has to be aligned with structural property tax measures,” she said. “Resource sharing among towns can decrease the burden on local property taxpayers. That resonates with people. But there has to be a benefit and it has to help lower taxes on the middle class.”

As she campaigns for each vote, Gadkar-Wilcox is aware that many voters in Trumbull could cast their vote based on their views of national or state politics. But she said she is not counting on being carried to victory by a surge of anti-Trump sentiment.

“For me, it can’t just be about a blue wave,” she said. “It has to be about the community. As a team, we’ve knocked on 10,000 doors and spent Saturdays in coffee shops engaging with people. The biggest asset a politician can have is availability.”