Why I am running for Connecticut State Representative

[Correction 3/27/14: In this article advancing his candidacy, Jason Paul mistakenly misstated Rep. Orange vote on the Decriminalization of Marijuana. While he used what he thought was a reputable source (www.votesmart.org), the legislative record states that Rep. Orange did vote for the Decriminalization of Marijuana. He wishes to express his sincerest apology for the mistake.]

by Jason Paul

In law school, we are often taught two very different things. On one hand, we’re taught what the law is from a technical perspective so we can understand what the case or statute would mean if the law was enforced. But there is something else we learn, or at least should learn. We learn that no matter what the law says, there often is a disconnect between what society has agreed will happen and what actually happens. Rules are not always enforced fairly and these gaps slowly but surely breed a quiet cynicism within the public about the law and about the country.  I decided to run for state legislator in Connecticut’s 48th district, which covers parts of Colchester, Lebanon, Mansfield, and Windham, because I believe I can help to close those gaps, at least slightly.

My opponent Rep. Linda Orange is not a bad person, yet on three crucial issues she holds the wrong position. The first and the most important is her stance on guns.  My opponent is a gun extremist who voted against the most recent post –Sandy Hook changes in Connecticut law, and previously voted against requiring gun owners to report if their gun was lost or stolen. Every single year, 30,000 Americans die at the hand of guns.  We lead the industrialized world multiple times over in such deaths.  We shouldn’t.  This constitutes a crisis, a crisis that is being ignored. In Congress, the NRA stalls a bill to simply close the loopholes with respect to background checks for gun purchases. It is shameful. The only way to change that is to change the equation. Someone needs to lose an election because he or she put the special interest of the NRA above the public interest of being safer from the threat of guns. We should be able to protect ourselves from such indiscriminate carnage. Positions such as this are exactly the kind of thing that leads to disconnect and cynicism.

Second, we deserve a campaign finance system that does not drown out the voices of average Americans. We, in Connecticut, are blessed with what I consider to the best campaign finance system for state elections in the country.  It should be the model for the nation. Sadly, my opponent and her colleagues in the legislature decided to weaken it by raising the amounts that can flow into accounts outside of the public system. There was no good excuse for the change. If we want policy to be made in the public interest, we need to stand boldly for public financing of elections.

Finally, we also need to get serious about criminal justice reform. We simply have too many people in prison at too high a cost. It is admittedly a challenge to figure out exactly how to solve that problem. A good place to start is to call a truce in the drug war, particularly when it comes to marijuana possession. Unfortunately my opponent is a hardcore drug warrior, voting against the decriminalization of the possession of a small amount of marijuana.  We aren’t going to get reform of these laws without someone who is reform minded.

All told my opponent’s stance on these three issues is what breeds cynicism.  When a special interest group overrides the will of the majority with respect to guns, when it appears that policy is for sale, and when the law turns large numbers of its citizens into criminals and then enforces drug laws disproportionately, it is easy to be cynical.  To rise above the cynicism, we need to challenge it. That is what I intend to do over the next six months  heading toward the primary on August 12th.