State Sen. Andrew Roraback’s position on the repeal of Connecticut’s death
penalty has become a high-profile issue in the 5-way race for the Republican
nomination in the Fifth Congressional District.
Businesswoman Lisa Wilson-Foley of Simsbury, one of the other contenders, aired
radio commercials criticizing “soft on crime liberals” for opposing the death
penalty and accused Roraback of “death penalty double talk.”
Roraback, Wilson-Foley, and the other candidates, including Mike Clark of
Farmington, Justin Bernier of Plainville, and Mark Greenberg of Litchfield –
all spoke Saturday at a forum sponsored by the Minortown Firearms Enthusiast
The Fifth District covers 41 municipalities in the western part of the state
and became an open seat early last year when U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy,
D-Cheshire, announced that he would run for the U.S. Senate.
Wilson-Foley said that Roraback recently voted to raise a bill to repeal the
death penalty, but also told the Cheshire Republican Town Committee that he
would consider opposing efforts to repeal it, if state lawmakers don’t repeal a
law that allows convicted felons to reduce their jail time for good behavior.
The issue is of great importance in Cheshire, where Jennifer Hawke-Petit and
her two daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, were killed in July 2007. The
two men convicted for their deaths are currently on death row and proponents of
the death penalty believe if repeal passes, even if it’s prospective, it will
likely help the 2 escape execution.
The change in Roraback’s position has given his opponents something to talk
about even though it’s not something they would have any control over as
members of Congress.
“The people who serve in elective office should have principles and not bargain
them away for political ends,” Wilson-Foley said in a news release. “Keeping
the death penalty is a serious matter and shouldn’t become a political trading
“People who say that aren’t paying attention to what my position is,” Roraback
said Saturday. “I still strongly believe that the state should not be in the
business of taking life.”
However, “I feel equally that the state should not be in the business of lying
to victims of crimes and to their families,” Roraback said. “I think what has
been done is unconscionable because it creates a breach of faith with crime
victims and with their families.”
“We have gone back on our word,” he added. ”This is my opportunity to restore
faith in our system.”
Under the early release program passed last year by the General Assembly
inmates can shave up to 5 days a month off their prison sentences by
participating in programs.
Wilson-Foley, who lost the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor 2
years ago, said she “was making the point that maybe he should look at it
again, and maybe he should change his vote.”
“I would hate to have the repeal of the death penalty based on one individual’s
vote as a Republican when 85 % of the Republicans in our state would like to
see the death penalty stay,” Wilson-Foley said.
Wilson-Foley said she is “not sure it has been a deterrent to heinous crimes,
and I’ve read the research. But I do believe that it is just punishment for
very heinous crimes.”
Clark, who worked as an FBI agent in New York and Connecticut, said he believes
it does deter major crimes.
“I don’t base that on statistical analysis,” he said. “I base that on my
interaction with real criminals that committed crimes like that when I as an
FBI agent have interviewed them. I’ve seen the look in their eyes and their
face and what they will do to avoid [the death penalty].”
Greenberg said he also believes the death penalty is a “deterrent.”
Roraback, who seems to be the frontrunner in the Congressional race on the
Republican side, has been heavily lobbied by both supporters and opponents of
repealing the death penalty. Click here to read our report on the latest from
“I think the Republican primary voters are concerned about Andrew’s position on
the issue,” Greenberg, who supports the death penalty, said. “I do think it
will be an issue in the primary,” Clark, who also supports the death penalty,
said. “If you speak to the Cheshire Republican Town Committee you can see how
important the issue is and I think it also resonates in other towns in the
“I don’t think it’s an issue in the congressional race,” Roraback said. “People
are mostly concerned about our economy, national security and energy issues.”
Regardless, it will remain an issue at the state Capitol.
“It’s going to bring attention and awareness,” Woodbury First Selectman Gerald
Stomski, the moderator at the forum, said of the death penalty.
“But I think the major issues are jobs, our economy and energy in the
congressional race,” he said.