Floren will not run for new term

Seen here speaking before the annual League of Women Voters’ Legislative Picnic, State Rep. Livvy Floren announced this week she will not seek a new term in Hartford — Ken Borsuk

Seen here speaking before the annual League of Women Voters’ Legislative Picnic, State Rep. Livvy Floren announced this week she will not seek a new term in Hartford — Ken Borsuk

Change is coming to Greenwich’s legislative delegation with the announcement last week that state Rep. Livvy Floren (R-149) will not seek an eighth term in Hartford this fall.

Ms. Floren has represented her district, which covers backcountry Greenwich and a portion of Stamford, since 2000. She said that while she doesn’t intend to give up her advocacy for issues she’s passionate about, she knew it was time to leave the legislature. Questions about her political future began around the 2012 election when her longtime friend and colleague state Rep. Lile Gibbons, who had represented the 150th District since 2001, did not run for re-election, but in an interview with the Post, Ms. Floren said this was a decision she only came to recently.

“This was a decision that was more personal than anything else,” Ms. Floren said. “I just thought that 14 years was long enough. I love the job and I’ve got the enthusiasm and the energy, but I thought it was time for a change. I think 14 years is a good, long run. We need new ideas and new voices. This is not a throne. It’s a seat.”

When asked what she will miss most about the job, Ms. Floren did not list the long commute on Interstate 95 from Greenwich to Hartford. But she will miss the people. She said she knew what the job would entail going in after spending 10 years running the campaigns of former state Rep. Janet Lockton, who also represented the 149th District, but that her time in Hartford really showed the value of personal relationships in allowing things to get done.

“I’m going to miss the people very much and that includes my constituents, to whom I am very, very grateful,” Ms. Floren said. “What is wonderful about this job is that every day is different. You learn something every single day and I found that very stimulating intellectually, personally and interpersonally.”

Looking back at her time in Hartford, Ms. Floren said she was especially proud of her work on environmental issues, like the banning of the use of pesticides on grounds where there are day care facilities, preserving open space and getting dry fire hydrants for backcountry Greenwich. She also worked closely on ethics reform in Hartford, campaign finance and bringing new technology into use for voting. In fact, during her tenure the way people vote has changed entirely, as people have gone from old-fashioned lever pull machines to optical scan.

“It’s been kind of startling in some respects,” Ms. Floren said. “The most startling thing to me was that summer I worked on the Help America Vote Act which made us change our process of voting. It was just amazing the issues that came up and the different nuances. Some people wanted to go straight to computers but there were concerns about hacking, and then there’s the issue of voter ID, which still eludes me. It came down to optical scan, which works but only if you have enough ballots.”

Ms. Floren’s advocacy for voter ID has raised some eyebrows, as the entire process has been controversial. While nationwide proponents of the policy of mandating that voters show a photo ID before voting claim it will reduce fraud, actual cases of voter fraud are extremely rare and opponents claim such a policy prevents poorer Americans from being able to vote because they are less likely to have driver’s licenses or other forms of photo ID. Several states have adopted strict voter ID laws leading to lawsuits and charges that the Republican governors of those states are attempting to block people likely to vote Democratic from voting.

Connecticut has never seriously pursued a voter ID law, but Ms. Floren said she believes the practice can be fair and not keep anyone willing to vote from doing so.

“The process I back is that we would pay for people to get photo IDs,” Ms. Floren said. “No one had to have to pay for an ID. They didn’t have to have a driver’s license. You just had to show up at a town hall or a satellite location and you could get it done free of charge. It’s protection for you, too. You need an ID to get on an airplane, to get into a courthouse or to get a senior discount at the movies. I think it’s silly. I didn’t see a downside because this was definitely not meant to discourage people from voting. I’m all about participation.”

While 2000 was her first run for state office, it was not her first taste of government. Before serving in Hartford, Ms. Floren was a member of both the Representative Town Meeting and Board of Estimate and Taxation in Greenwich. Ms. Floren, a noticeably prompt person, said the only thing that surprised her about Hartford was “the lack of respect for time.” She recalled years of getting to meetings 10 minutes early only to end up waiting 45 minutes for everyone else to show up. Ms. Floren said this is what they call “legislative time” in Hartford and speculated it is one of the reasons everything seems to get done in the last hours of a legislative session.

The Greenwich delegation has been a model of consistency through the years, with Ms. Floren and Ms. Gibbons both serving more than a decade, just like former state Rep. Claudia “Dolly” Powers and state Sen. William Nickerson, who were the rest of the delegation when Ms. Floren entered office. Part of that, no doubt, is because Greenwich has not elected a Democrat to the state legislature since Woodrow Wilson was president. But Ms. Floren has seen plenty of turnover in her Stamford delegation, which has a bipartisan mix not seen in Greenwich.

“Every term we get new freshmen,” Ms. Floren said. “That’s not so much in the Greenwich delegation but it is in my Stamford delegation, and there’s a lot of turnover in the chamber as a whole. There’s a lot of people who leave the House and fly off to the Senate. But you learn that it’s all about relationships and learning that you should never give up on anything.”

While she is a Greenwich resident, Ms. Floren said she’s always loved having a part of Stamford in her district.

“I think it’s very exciting,” Ms. Floren said. “The parts of my district that are in Stamford are very similar to Greenwich, but when I’ve said I serve Stamford I’ve always counted the city as part of that. There’s a lot of economic development issues and big city problems that we’ve faced, and certainly there’s a divergence in the neighborhoods. I’ve always loved serving Stamford and it’s wonderful how the city has grown in the last five years.”

Greenwich’s delegation has always been in a unique position in Hartford. While Republicans dominate local politics in town, in Hartford Democrats have long enjoyed large majorities in both chambers of the legislature. Ms. Floren, who has worked closely with both Republican Govs. John Rowland and M. Jodi Rell and current Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy, said this is an example of how building relationships can help.

“That’s never been something that’s bothered me,” Ms. Floren said. “The issues that matter the most to me and my constituents are the issues that you can build consensus and coalitions around. These are issues like the environment, good government and seniors. Those are the issues that matter to me. Yes, we butt heads over taxation because I believe it’s gotten too high and it’s hurting this community because we’re seen as the cash cow, but we can come together on the issues.”

The issue of who will succeed Ms. Floren is expected to be a hot one in the coming months, as both Republicans and Democrats are expected to have interest from multiple candidates. While there has been concern that an eventual successor could come from Stamford, leaving Greenwich with only two representatives in the legislature, Ms. Floren said she doesn’t believe that will happen, given how little of her district is from Stamford compared to how much of it is from Greenwich.

“When I decided to announce, before I said anything to anybody, I called both of my Republican Town Committee chairs, and Stamford realizes this is a Greenwich seat and always has been a Greenwich seat,” Ms. Floren said. “It’s not an issue.”

While she is rooting for the Republicans, obviously, Ms. Floren does have some advice for whoever succeeds her.

“Showing up is important,” Ms. Floren said. “That seems like it would be simple, but you have to take into account the long hours and the commute back and forth. But you have to do it. And you have to talk and you especially have to listen. Listen to your friends, your neighbors and your constituents. Answer your email and phone calls. You have to be visible and accessible in your community. Go to your community meetings and march in the parades. You can’t become insulated.”

While she won’t be running for a new term, Ms. Floren’s work is hardly finished. There’s a lot of work left in the session, including passing a budget, and Ms. Floren said her priorities remain making sure Greenwich and Stamford are “taken seriously,” particularly when it comes to grant applications and improving Connecticut’s economy to create jobs. Ms. Floren said she is happy there is an approximately $508- million surplus, and she wants to see that money go toward paying down Connecticut’s debt, keep spending under control and rebuild a “rainy day fund.”

 

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