By Dan Ivers
WALLINGFORD — The recent remapping of state House and Senate districts has left local Republicans without a clear choice to oppose longtime Democratic representative Mary Mushinsky in next year’s election.
Craig Fishbein, a second term town councilor, had indicated an interest in running for state office, but the new districts place his Grieb Road home out of Mushinsky’s 85th District. He is now a resident of the 90th District, which also includes portions of Cheshire and is represented by Democrat Mary Fritz.
Republican Town Committee Chairman Bob Prentice said he was disappointed Fishbein would not be able to challenge Mushinsky, who has held the 85th District seat since 1981.
“It’s unfortunate, because I know he was talking pretty heavily about it. We’re not sure how it’s all going to pan out at this point,” said Prentice.
Mike Vitali, who opposed Mushinsky in 2008 and 2010, has also been moved out of the district, although Prentice said Vitali had informed committee members that he was unlikely to seek the nomination again next year.
Last month, Fishbein told the Record-Journal that he would be open to possibly running for state office in the future, fueling speculation he would challenge Mushinsky next year. However, Fishbein said he never committed to a run and had yet to take any steps to prepare a campaign.
“I have thought about running for state rep,” he said. “But I can tell you categorically that I have not asked anyone to be on my team for any run in 2012.”
Fishbein indicated that the prospect of ousting a longtime incumbent such as Mushinsky is not a primary factor in his plans, and that he would not be opposed to challenging Fritz if he runs.
“That’s not the way I do things. If I was to run, it wouldn’t necessarily be because of potentially unseating someone. It would be because I think I would do a good job,” he said.
Cheshire resident Richard Abbate has already indicated that he plans to oppose Fritz this year, according to Prentice, but official discussions on nominations will not begin until early next year.
Mushinsky, who has announced her intention to seek a 16th term, called Fishbein a “very active councilor.” Despite being members of rival parties, they recently found common ground in their opposition to a plan to upgrade the Simpson Court parking lot using $500,000 of taxpayer dollars. Fishbein broke with other Republicans on the Town Council in opposing the deal.
Mushinsky has gone through the redistricting process three times since being elected, and said the 85th District has undergone at least a minor shift each time. This year, its borders moved slightly to the south and the west, toward Cheshire.
“There generally is some kind of boundary moving every time redistricting happens,” she said.