Susan Bysiewicz P’13 Runs for Senate
When Middletown native Susan Bysiewicz P’13 announced plans to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Joe Lieberman in 2012, her daughter Ava Bysiewicz Donaldson ’13 was not at all surprised.
“It’s always been one of her goals [to run for Senate], so it’s always been a question of when was the best time to do it,” Bysiewicz Donaldson said. “My reaction was ‘it’s about time,’ and I think a lot of people felt like that because she’s talked about wanting to do it for a while.”
Bysiewicz was Secretary of the State of Connecticut from 1999 to 2011, and her platform emphasizes job creation, investing in energy independence, and promoting small business. She will be competing against U.S. Representative Christopher Murphy in the Democratic primary in the summer of 2012.
“I’m running for the Senate because I want to make our state a place where my children can get a great job when they graduate from college and afford to raise their families here,” Bysiewicz said. “My grave concern is that Connecticut is losing more young people faster than any other state in the country because we just do not have the job opportunities here.”
Bysiewicz Donaldson has been a part of her mother’s political career from a very young age.
“It always felt normal to me,” she said. “She’s always involved us in the process of campaigning and we’ve been with her since we were babies in office, and we’ve been in all her commercials—I narrated the first one when I was six.”
Bysiewicz first visited the University when her mother began working with Wesleyan professors to pass an Equal Rights Amendment. She also studied creative writing at the Center for Creative Youth, a summer arts camp at Wesleyan, in 1978. She has since worked with University faculty and students in her campaigns and in trying to pass certain legislation.
“I was enriched by having so many people in the Wesleyan community who knew my mom and my family,” Bysiewicz said. “I’ve enjoyed having Wesleyan students work on my campaigns, and they’ve also worked in the Secretary of the State’s office as interns and employees. They’ve been terrific.”
Bysiewicz said she plans on campaigning in high schools and colleges in order to engage young people in the election process. She said she has always been an advocate for young voters, and helped pass a constitutional amendment in 2008 that allows 17-year-olds the opportunity to vote in primaries provided they are 18 by the time of the general election.
Bysiewicz also registered more than 150,000 people between the ages of 18 and 35 to vote in the 2008 election, and hopes many young voters will get involved in the 2012 election.
Bradley Spahn ’11, the President of College Democrats in Connecticut, notes that it is important that the Senate candidates make detailed plans for job creation in Connecticut that go beyond political rhetoric.
“Any successful Senate candidate has to lay out a plan for improving the employment situation in the short-term while also addressing the huge budget deficit in the long-term,” Spahn wrote in an e-mail to The Argus. “I would hope that all of our candidates for Senate don’t just utter platitudes about jobs and the economy, but actually develop detailed proposals for solving these problems.”
Spahn believes the Middletown Democrats will likely officially endorse her later this year.
“I would expect that her connection to Middletown would merit her the Middletown Democratic Town Committee’s endorsement,” Spahn wrote. “There were already members calling for an endorsement and I’d expect an endorsement to come this year.”
Bysiewicz believes her experience as Secretary of the State has sufficiently prepared her for the Senate, having worked with new entrepreneurs in Connecticut for the past 12 years. Her office helped entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground, and advised them on the process of filing permits. She also believes her husband’s business experience gives her firsthand knowledge of the challenges small business owners are facing.
“I think it’s very important to have someone in Washington whose husband is a small business owner, and someone who worked on a daily basis with those who were out there on the front lines of job creation,” she said. “I know first-hand what the challenges are, everything from very high electric rates to very high health insurance costs to high liability insurance costs.”
In terms of foreign policy, Bysiewicz says she would like to remove troops from Afghanistan and Iraq as soon as possible. She hopes to use the money being spent in the wars in the Middle East to invest in infrastructure and green technologies.
“A strong priority of mine is bringing home our young people from the Middle East,” she said. “I want to bring them back home as soon as possible; one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do as Secretary of the State is to go to the funerals of more than 50 young people from our state, some of whom are the ages of Ava.”
Bysiewicz Donaldson has already gotten involved in the political process—she’s currently on the Middletown Democratic Town Committee—and may pursue a career in politics as well.
“I always envisioned following in [my mom’s] footsteps and romanticized the idea, and I’ve been thinking about it more, but we’ll see how everything goes, I don’t know yet”, she said. “If I do, I definitely have a great role model to follow after.”