Ridgefield gains a second state senator under redistricting plans

Photo of Alyssa Seidman

RIDGEFIELD - Residents who live north of Route 35 will soon have a new state senator representing them in Hartford.

Last month the state’s Reapportionment Commission unanimously approved 36 new state senate districts to account for population changes reflected in the 2020 Census.

The redraw split Ridgefield’s single senatorial district — the 26th district — in half. After the 2022 election, when the changes take effect, the northern half of town will be part of the 24th district and the southern half of town will remain part of the 26th district.

State Senator Julie Kushner, D-Danbury, currently represents Connecticut’s 24th district; it includes a portion of Bethel and all of Danbury, New Fairfield and Sherman. When the map was redrawn, however, Kushner lost her footholds in Bethel and Sherman.

The new 24th district comprises all of Danbury, a southern portion of New Fairfield and the northern half of Ridgefield.

Though she’s lived in Danbury for nearly 30 years, Kushner’s home is not too far from the Ridgefield border; she noted that her leisurely walks often take her into town.

“When the redistricting map came out, I got a lot of calls from friends who live in Ridgefield who were so excited that now I was actually gonna be their senator,” she said. “It was very encouraging.”

If reelected, Kushner would join state Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, in advocating for Ridgefielders in Hartford. The 26th district currently covers all of Ridgefield, but under the new map Haskell will only represent the southern half of town.

The redrawn 26th district also includes all of Redding, Weston, Westport and Wilton, as well as parts of Stamford, Darien and New Canaan.

“Julie … (is) a spectacular colleague and a wonderfully talented state senator,” Haskell said. “Once the Ridgefield community gets to know Julie they’re going to think the world of her.”

Kushner was elected to the state senate in November 2018. Whereas freshman senators typically enjoy a quiet first term, Kushner’s first day in office included “very intense negotiations” over two state senate bills, she said.

In early 2019, senators were debating the establishment of a paid family and medical leave insurance program, and increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour. As chairwoman of the Labor & Public Employees Committee, Kushner helped the bills effectively pass through the senate chamber.

Both pieces of legislation have since been signed into law. Hundreds of people have already applied for the program, which starts paying out benefits on Jan. 1, 2022, Kushner said, and the minimum wage increase has benefited 332,000 workers in Connecticut.

“I have had the advantage of being in a position (of) seeing what a difference being in government can make,” she added. “What I have found incredibly important is not just going to Hartford to work on legislation, but going into the community and seeing the impact it’s making on people’s lives.”

Kushner noted her love of The Prospector Theater and that she’s dined at many Ridgefield restaurants. She believes other communities in Connecticut could “transform” by adapting Main Street’s character, and plans to speak with public servants to hear how their organizations contribute to the town’s economy and quality of life.

“There’s a lot to be gained from the Ridgefield experience,” she added.

Kushner is also interested in promoting small businesses and start-ups and making it easier for communities to address environmental concerns. Having previously represented Bethel alongside Haskell, she is confident they can continue to work together towards solving local issues.

“I’ve known Julie Kushner well before she was elected to the senate,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said. “She is a person with a lot of experience and knowledge … easy to work with (and) passionate about Connecticut.”

He continued, “Will has done an excellent job for our community … and now to have Julie fighting for Ridgefield as well can only help our situation here relative to Hartford.”

This story has been updated to reflect that the district will not change until after the 2022 election.

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com