By RENA EPSTEIN, Hartford Guardian Writer
There’s a political storm brewing in the 3rd Assembly District.
An opponent has risen up, to take on five-term incumbent Minnie Gonzalez in the Democratic primary for State Representative.
Although this will be the first time Francisco (“Frank”) De Jesus puts his name on a ballot, he describes himself as a 30-year veteran of the fight “for social justice” who has been active in “politics all my life.” Retired after 32 years as a chief fiscal officer for the state, De Jesus has been a “member of many Puerto Rican organizations” in Hartford including La Casa Puerto Rico, the Spanish-American Center, and the Puerto Rican Parade. He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Business Management from Vision International University.
Gonzalez is a survivor of poverty and cancer who migrated from Puerto Rico in 1981, “looking for a better life for my kids.” This self-described, former “welfare mother” has been elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives since 1996. She sits on the Appropriations, Commerce, and Public Safety Committees, and currently serves as Assistant Majority Whip. Active on the Democratic Town Committee since 1989, she also works as a Recruiting Officer for Daybreak at Hartford, a day care center for seniors.
Gonzalez says, “I’ve worked hard for jobs, education, affordable housing, the elderly, small businesses, and kids.” On a grand scale, she says she has led the fight for state money to change the face of her district: e.g., over $28 million to rehabilitate Mortson Street and Park Terrace; $1.5 million for the Recreation Center and other improvements at Pope Park; the redevelopment of Rice Heights, with construction of the Breakthrough Charter Magnet School; and funding for other local concerns such as the Hispanic Senior Center, Real Art Ways, and Mi Casa. On a smaller scale, she says she responds to constituent calls for “a lawyer or a haircut or a ride to the hospital…I work with whoever needs help. My district is better, day by day. My plan is to continue to bring in the resources to improve the quality of life.”
De Jesus says he is in this race because “I see a need. I am here to unite, bring people together.” He cautions voters, “Money sometimes is not a solution.” What is crucial, he says, is for leaders to get behind each other and work “as a team.” How do we reduce dropout rates and increase admissions to college? “We need,” De Jesus says, “parents, teachers, and the public—the whole community—telling our kids that education is the tool to succeed.” To combat crime, he wants state legislators to support city leaders by passing “laws to help the police departments and mayors deal with illegal arms in the hands of criminals.” Frustrated by holes in health care, De Jesus promises to lead all concerned to the table, including “insurance companies, hospitals—to come up with a solution, a least a solution to protect our youth.”
De Jesus’ focus on unity raises the issue of past disagreements between Gonzalez and Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez. Gonzalez says, “When I believe in something for the people I represent, I don’t back down.” De Jesus says, “That’s not the best way to unite our community, to take care of the problems.”
On August 8, the voters will have a say about whose approach is right for them.