Joy McConnell is the Republican candidate for Branford First Selectman. While the married mother of three attempted a run for U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s congressional seat, that try ended after a very brief period when the realities and demands of political campaigning set in. It got her feet wet, however. Now McConnell, party-backed, organized and fully committed to winning in November, is embarking on her first full-fledged campaign for political office.
Q: Why did you make the decision to run?
A: I’m very interested in politics. I have spent the last 10 years raising my kids. In the past year my youngest was in all-day kindergarten and it was kind of a transition year for me. I was sort of thinking about getting a little more involved in politics – I’ve always followed politics in the past. I was an Independent up until this spring, but you really need to be affiliated with a party and work within that framework. Ray [Ingraham, RTC chairman and McConnell’s campaign manager] encouraged me to run. Mostly, for me, it was a time factor. So the timing was right.
Q: Is this your first attempt at political office?
A: I campaigned for Rosa DeLauro’s seat, that was short-lived. I was an Independent, and at that point I thought that [a political campaign] was a lot to take on.
Q: Why did you want to unseat DeLauro?
A: In general, tax policies – tax increases. That was what I was was very concerned about; my passion. I’m one of those affected [by higher taxes].
Q: Is there one pressing issue or project you’d like to address immediately should you win in November?
A: I talk about a broad range of things in my campaign. I talk a lot about civility in Town Hall, and transparency. The idea that Town Hall should feel like home. It makes Town Hall more family friendly. I’m starting an initiative for, when we have public meetings, having some kind of framework where we use volunteers for a kids’ room. This would be good, especially for meetings. I’m starting to work on this now. That’s an initiative I’d like to hit the ground running with, even as a candidate.
Q: Is there a personal or professional characteristic you have that you think would be especially beneficial to you as first selectman?
A: I spent year teaching. I was a writing teacher, a tutor. I worked with English as a Second Language students, and at Wesleyan I started a writing program. Doing that, I worked with a variety of people. I think that in the job of first selectman you have to deal with people, manage people, manage personalities, successfully.
Q: Why do you think you would make a good first selectman?
A: I’d really like to see Branford continue on the upswing. There are economic issues, quality-of-life issues, crime issues. These local issues are really the issues that affect people on a daily basis.
Q: What are your thoughts about the Democratic Party and its goals for Branford?
A: I’ve been married to a Democrat for 17 years, so I’m open-minded. [Branford Democrats have] talked about things they’ve accomplished. My party, the Republican Party, is really offering a vision for Branford, rather than running on a track record. We’re looking to move forward.
Q: Is there anything that the Democrats have done or said so far that you think will hurt your campaign?
A: No, I don’t think so. I know wants to run on the issues. I respect him for that, and I think he’s a man of his word.
Q: What about your own party? Do you think anything from the Republican side could hurt your campaign?
A: No, I think our party is really energized for this campaign. I have a great campaign team, just excellent to work with.
Q: Do you think you would run again regardless of the results of the November election?
A: I’ve been working so hard on this campaign, I’m really so committed to it that it’s hard to think past that. I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. I don’t like to think about losing, but so far it’s been a positive experience. So I would say yes.
Q: How does the fact that you are a Republican and your husband is a Democrat affect your campaign?
A: He’s really glad to see me run. He said you’re doing something that makes you so happy, you’re the perfect person for the job – I think you were meant to do it. I spent a lot of time helping him with his career, so I think he sees it as my turn. We’re not quite James Carville and Mary Matalin. We’re a little bit calmer than that.
Q: What kind of economic development would you like to see in Branford?
A: The term economic development gets used a lot. When you say development, sometimes people just think about building new buildings. But it’s being business-friendly and really facilitating new businesses. I’d like to see an anchor store. It doesn’t have to be , but an anchor store that brings in satellite stores. It also would support the businesses we already have here. Before, when we lived in Middletown, we used to come up here and go to a café. So I’m very committed to supporting Branford businesses. Also, bioscience was one of the things going on in Branford at the time, and we were a little science hub. I thought Branford would continue in that direction. Over the years that has not been the case. We’ve lost a lot of those businesses. That industry, at least in Branford, is on the decline. I work for the scientific community, and there are a lot of aspects to bioscience. Let’s start by filling up commercial properties.
Q: Would you like to see a section of Branford developed into something akin to New Haven’s Science Park?
A: I think that would be a very effective way to do it. Bring in organizations that promote effective innovation and collaboration. That takes a lot of planning, and I would work with [different local departments and individuals]. That would be one of the longer-term projects. Another way is to have Branford as a host site for conventions.
Q: What do you think you and would bring to Branford that your opponents won’t?
A: What Jamie and I share is a desire to look forward. A lot of people are fighting about things that happened in the past. and I really are looking forward, not at what’s wrong with Branford. We have a vision of where we want to go. I think we offer very specific and concrete solutions.
Q: How can local residents learn more about your ideas for Branford?
A: They can go to joyforbranford.com. I’m on Facebook and Twitter. As people become interested about the campaign, they should follow us, and post questions. I think that’s the best way to find out about me and more about the campaign.