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Sunday, May 27 News

Wilton man to challenge state Rep. O’Dea for 125th district seat

WILTON — After failing to field a candidate in the past two elections, Democrats have finally found a competitor to run against state Rep. Tom O’Dea for the 125th district seat.

Wilton resident Ross Tartell secured the party’s nomination at the 125th District Assembly Convention in New Canaan on Monday, May 14, with promises to bring change to the district, which contains parts of New Canaan and Wilton.

“The thing that I bring as a legislator that really few have is my capacity to understand issues, to build a coalition around that, to build teams that are collaborative and then being able to find a way forward,” said Tartell. “That’s something that is not typical in politics, because politics is usually competitive. I think that is probably my strongest attribute.”

Tartell will be the first Democrat to run against O’Dea since 2012 for control of the 125th. The only opposition O’Dea, a New Canaan resident, faced in the past two elections was from Green Party candidates, David Bedell in 2014 and Hector Lopez in 2016, both of whom he soundly defeated.

As an independent contractor, Tartell spent his career helping individuals and organizations understand what it takes to be successful — an attribute he believes will translate well to Hartford. He also worked for GE Capital and the pharmaceutical company Pfizer and has been an adjunct associate professor of psychology and education at Columbia University’s Teachers College since 1996.

Tartell, who has lived in town since 1989, has extensive experience dealing with public education at the local level, having spent 23 years chairing long-range planning teams at the elementary, middle, high schools in Wilton, as well as district-wide.

Tartell, who currently serves as a fire commissioner in Wilton, said that his experience with unions, the renovation of the Marhoffer Fire Station, and the town budget could come in handy, if elected. He also chairs the town’s Democratic Nominating Committee — leading a team that identifies and recommends members of the community to serve on town boards and commissions.

In addition to serving his community, Tartell has been a lifelong learner, having received his Bachelor of Arts from Hofstra University, an MBA in management from Columbia Business School, and both his master’s in education and his doctorate in social psychology from Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Despite his background, Tartell will have a challenge unseating O’Dea.

When the three-term incumbent first learned about his challenger, he invited Tartell out to coffee for a chat, in which they agreed to stick to the issues during the campaign and abstain from personal attacks.

O’Dea later offered up a seemingly-unprecedented gesture to Tartell, bringing him up to Hartford and introducing him to the legislature.

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“I think that speaks to the tone of campaign. We’re both determined to really talk to the issues, and to really run a great campaign that helps the voters decide what they really need,” Tartell said.

O’Dea said the challenge will go long way toward ensuring the district gets what it needs out of the seat.

“I think I’ve done a good job representing the district, but I’m happy to see someone come in and give the electorate a choice. I’m certain not everyone is happy with all of my votes, but I’m proud of my efforts and I welcome the opportunity to defend my reputation and my voting record,” O’Dea said.

O’Dea has served as the Deputy Republican Leader at Large since the beginning of the 2017 session. He is also a member of the legislature’s Transportation Committee, as well as the Judiciary, Legislative Management and Regulation Review committees.

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