Mike DeGrego is the Republican challenger to Gayle Slossberg, who has represented Connecticut's 14th district since 2005. The district includes Milford, Orange, a portion of West Haven -- and starting this year, the southern portion of Woodbridge.
You have a background in law enforcement and the military. How has that prepared you for political office?
DeGrego: Well, I joined the Air Force at 19. Retired in 1992 after 20 years in the Air Force. Became a policeman in 1977, then retired in 2002. But I first became a conservative at 18 after hearing State Senator James Buckley speak. I was always influenced by my grandparents on both sides -- they grew up in the Depression, and the people brought up during that time always impressed me most. That generation endured the most and complained the least. And so I had those values.
I graduated in 1983 with a degree in Criminal Justice and worked in forensics ... In 1990, I was teaching foreign policy in the Air Force and decided to go back to school -- Lehman College in the Bronx.
Later that year, I was activated for Desert Shield and Desert Storm and put college aside until 2002 in Secondary Ed. In September 2001 -- when 9/11 happened -- I became a rescuer and volunteered nights when I wasn't in school. So at that time, I was working at Police Department, working at Ground Zero, and going to school at the same time. After I got my degree, I thought if I became a Social Studies teacher I could help. I also taught Science, Math, English [and foreign languages] -- I taught everything.
So that was my background. I came to Milford in 2005 and stopped teaching because I was helping my fiancee. For the last five years, I've been teaching CCD at Lady of Victory in West Haven as a volunteer.
Why did you decide to run for office?
DeGrego: I saw what was going on in the state. I couldn't sit by and watch the governor run roughshod over seniors, small businesses, everybody. [I]t's not fair. There's no parity in Hartford. I'm not a career politician; I don't have a secret agenda. What Hartford is doing is criminal. You need a cop.
What are the issues we're facing?
DeGrego: This state is horrible as far as business. There are no job opportunities. The governor keeps saying we're going to create jobs. When? The only thing a kid can do is join the service or move out of state to get a job. And forget trying to start a business. We're ranked 44th in that. This state doesn't have a revenue problem -- we have a spending problem. And once we get it under control, we'll create jobs and get a lot of restrictions off the small business owner. And we're ranked 50th for retirees.
We've got to cut this out-of-control spending. The first thing I'd do is say 'no' to any new taxes. Right now the Senate and the House are ruled by Democrats. We've just had the biggest tax increase in state history. The governor said that would be enough. It's not. We're still millions in debt, and right now the governor is thinking of ways to raise more taxes right after the election. After the election, all the mismanagement is going to come out -- they're getting ready to raise taxes for next year. So we gotta cut spending.
Do you think there are different issues to deal with in the district from town to town?
DeGrego: Well, it's all the same problem. People can't afford to live here anymore -- the taxes in this state are spiraling to new heights. They have to move to other states -- states down south, where they can afford to live. It's not fair. Why should a guy and his wife live here for 40 or 50 years and then say, 'I can't afford to live here?' My neighbors' parents went to another state because they can't afford it anymore. And that's something that affects the whole 14th district. I will represent people of the whole 14th district. Not some of the people.
DeGrego: You gotta give the small businessman a break. You gotta make it fair for seniors. Look at last year -- we had the highest tax rate in state history. That's a disgrace.
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