Monroe's GOP Leaders Back Hovey Amid Calls to Step Down

While political opponents are adding to an online petition calling for State Rep. DebraLee Hovey to resign over the Facebook controversy, she has no intention to and Monroe RTC Chairman Jeff Guttman says it's overblown.

State Rep. DebraLee Hovey's Facebook post sparked a national controversy when she told former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords to "stay out of my towns!" when the shooting victim traveled to Newtown to console victims' families of the Sandy Hook School shooting. Though Hovey, who represents the 112th District covering Monroe and a portion of Newtown, quickly apologized, there are some who do not believe it went far enough.

An online petition was started calling on Hovey to resign. However, so far, most of the posted comments in favor are from town Democrats or written as "Anonymous".

"I'm not resigning," Hovey said Monday. "I represented the sentiments of the victims' families and continue to have as a priority constructive forward actions for both Newtown and Monroe."

Hovey said she attended 19 funerals and wakes in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook School tragedy, which claimed the lives of six adults and 20 children.

Of her Facebook comments, she said, "I am not perfect and never pretended to be and I relate to people in an honest, open way. I apologized and there has been criticism of that. After the Sandy Hook crisis, I would have hoped people would focus on positives and supporting each other."

The story has gone national on sites such as Huffington Post, Gawker, Politico and ABC to name few.

Some readers who were angry over the Facebook comments wrote that they wanted Hovey out of office before she can collect a state pension. But Hovey, who is in her sixth term, already became eligible during her fifth term.

'Doing Her Job'

Hovey has been popular among the majority of her constituents, consistently winning over 50% of the popular vote. Last November, she easily won reelection, taking 64.4% of the vote.

"I have excellent working relationships with the leadership of both communities," she said Monday.

Republican leaders in Monroe are still expressing strong support for Hovey as the town's representative in Hartford.

Monroe First Selectman Steve Vavrek, a Republican, said he has not been following the Facebook controversy closely, but added, "I think she's done a great job overall. What she does in her personal life and her personal comments are her own business."

Vavrek pointed out that Hovey apologized, adding she has done a good job of securing state funds for the town.

"As far as I'm concerned, she's doing her job," Vavrek said.

Blown Out of Proportion?

Monroe Republican Town Committee Chairman Jeff Guttman also expressed his unwavering support of Hovey on Monday.

"I think that DebraLee's comment to Gabrielle Giffords was blown out of proportion," Guttman said. "I'm sure she didn’t mean in any way to start a controversy and people should remember all that DebraLee did for Monroe and Newtown as their state representative. It's a shame how people forget all the good things someone did. When one or two bad things happen, all of the good gets pushed away. The Monroe Republican people are still behind DebraLee. It's business as usual."

The last time a state representative resigned amid controversy in Monroe was when Republican William Varese stepped down after his second DUI arrest in the 1990s. Guttman believes the Facebook incident is no comparison.

"There was no point in her stepping down for a comment," he said. "If we asked people to step down over comments, we would be switching people in parties on a daily basis. Let's grow up people. Whenever somebody does something bad or wrong the political pundits seem to come out of the woodwork."

When State Rep. Christine Ayala of Bridgeport took heat for arrests for evading and a domestic incidents and for not living in the district she ran in, Guttman said Republicans didn’t call for her resignation.

Guttman's counterpart, Monroe Democratic Town Committee Chairman Nick Kapoor, says it's up to Hovey to decide whether or not to stay in office.

"Resignation is a personal decision for Representative Hovey," Kapoor said. "She has to decide if she will be able to be an effective representative for Monroe and Newtown for the next two years. If this incident is going to overshadow her duties as a legislator, then she will have a very difficult decision to make."

Kapoor criticized Hovey's Facebook comments.

"I think that Representative Hovey's comments were very insensitive to the situation and I'm not positive that her apology accomplished what it was meant to accomplish," he said.

Former Monroe DTC chairman, Patricia Ulatowski, signed the online petition calling for Hovey to resign.

In an email Tuesday morning, she said, "State Rep. Debra-Lee Hovey's recent politically-charged venomous public assessment of U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords’ recent meeting with the parents of the slain Sandy Hook children only enforces my view of her priorities and personal character. The time will soon come when she no longer holds office and is out of the political spotlight. I wonder if circumstances are similar to what occurred this past month, would she travel cross-country to console total strangers with no alternative motive in sight?  Knowing her as I do, I doubt it!”

'A Knee Jerk Reaction'

J.P. Sredzinski is a Republican who serves on the Town Council and assisted on Hovey's last two campaigns, serving as her manager in 2010.

"I can only speak for myself," he said Monday. "She made those comments on Facebook, she knew she made a mistake and apologized for it. To make it a partisan thing right now is inappropriate. This is not about politics. It's about Newtown as a community and Monroe as a community as well."

"DebraLee attended many of those funerals and showed her support," Sredzinski added. "I couldn't imagine going to one and watching someone bury their babies. She has provided support for the families."

Sredzinski said Hovey's intentions were to leave the families alone and to let them grieve.

"She knew what she said was a knee jerk reaction and apologized," he said. "I support DebraLee. I would never ask her to resign. She was elected by a wide majority. Clearly the voters support her."

Those who do not will have a chance to vote her out of office next election, Sredzinski points out.

"She deserves to fulfill her term," he said. "She didn't do anything illegal. That's why we have elections every two years."

Taking Action

Monday marked the one-month anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy and Kapoor said emotions are still raw.

"Gabrielle Giffords was a private citizen who came here to help these families, because she herself went through this," Kapoor said. "It wasn't a superficial thing. She had been here because she had been through just this type of situation. I was not pleased to say the least to read DebraLee Hovey's comments. This brought a lot of national press to the situation."

Kapoor noted how bills on gun control are now being proposed at the state and federal level.

"It's time to put a period on what happened," he said. "Let the families grieve. Let Newtown heal. It is now time for our elected leaders to take action."

Hovey, who participated in the ongoing Legislative Session in Hartford Monday, also plans to move forward.

"I have been in contact with many of the families and am only echoing their thoughts," she said. "These families need to be given time. They need to be given space to heal and to grieve."

Hovey pointed out how investigations into the Sandy Hook shooting have yet to be completed.

"We're waiting to get all that information," she said. "And when we do have all the information, we will move forward."

Christine E. January 15, 2013 at 10:27 PM
It points out that the comments on the online PETITION are from Democrats and Anonymous. Be clear when you speak.
jim laguardia January 15, 2013 at 10:32 PM
oh sorry my fingers were not going as fast as my brain was when pointing out the hypocrisy of pointing out who signed the petition and supplying a link to it while allowing people to post here under assumed names, and to use your point from the past people may not want to use their real names on the patch for privacy, so why would the patch then make a link to a survey that unless you WANTED to sign it or WANtED to find out who to be angry at for signing it ??
jim laguardia January 15, 2013 at 10:33 PM
and since you are good at pointing out errors just for the sake of pointing out errors i was not "speaking" but was typing.... :-)
D. Sickles January 15, 2013 at 11:06 PM
Interesting how nobody can point out what Hovey has done for this community. I guess the letter R next to your name not only guarantees you a victory but it also gives you a free pass on job performance.
Walt January 15, 2013 at 11:37 PM
I think the guy who played automobile pinball on his way to strip clubs in bridgeport did more for the district
Life By The Green January 16, 2013 at 01:22 AM
It certainly is my concern. I fear a tyrannical leaning government more than I fear a deranged killer, especially for my children. Ms. Giffords efforts are serving to make that a more distinct possibility. Those who choose to ignore the long and solemn history of such governments and the death that they brought to their own citizens are misguided.
Christine E. January 16, 2013 at 01:47 AM
Jim, What you had written looked as if you were referring to this articles comment thread, and not the petition. That being said, there is no need to correct my grammatical errors. You obviously knew what I meant.
Jim beam January 16, 2013 at 01:52 AM
Life By the Green: So because of your delusional fears of the "black helicopters" coming to take us away to internment camps in some dystopian future, we all have to arm ourselves with hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition and magazines that carry enough rounds to kill everyone in an elementary school classroom? No thanks, man. I reject your vision of some libertarian dystopia.
cmu268 January 16, 2013 at 02:17 AM
why wait in line when there's a toilet in the yard?! :)
jim laguardia January 16, 2013 at 02:25 AM
I know that is why I included the :-)
QWERTY January 16, 2013 at 02:45 AM
Oh really? Because hurricane Sandy has nothing to do with this conversation yet Jim beam interjected it for some reason.
Jim beam January 16, 2013 at 02:52 AM
Qwerty: Hurricane Sandy and Hovey's miserable response and her self-serving comments regarding Gabrielle Giffords are mutually indicative of her pathetic performance representing her constituents.
Life By The Green January 16, 2013 at 02:56 AM
Is that at all what I said or merely a projection of your own vision of the future. I draw on history not delusion. In my family history, I have ancestors who fled Germany as Hitler rose to power, surrendering everything to preserve their lives. I also have ancestors who fled Boston for Nova Scotia rather than face Colonial militia. You can debate the rights and wrongs of both but in each case, power was decided by the availability or unavailability of arms among the governed. No black helicopters needed.
JoAnn Toth January 16, 2013 at 03:04 AM
Keep up the good work, DebraLee. You are an amazing leader!
D. Sickles January 16, 2013 at 03:44 AM
@JoAnn can you give some examples of her "amazing" leadership? I have been trying to get some examples of what she has done as a state rep but nobody is able to answer.
Jim beam January 16, 2013 at 03:48 AM
Life By the Green: No rational political leader is advocating the confiscation of arms or the evisceration if the 2nd Amendment. However, zealous gun advocates and those who are making a fortune ( NRA & gun manufacturers) on paranoia by gun enthusiasts are stirring such fears. Muskets and even semi-automatic weapons would not deter a modern governmental army. So do we allow common citizens to possess grenade launchers, shoulder fired missiles, and other sophisticated weaponry? Where do we draw the line in regulating private sales that go undocumented? Our strength lies in our system of government not in who has more firepower. Otherwise there is no common union; no sense of fidelity to our nation. Your fear of some dictatorial power grab should not serve as an excuse for forcing us to live in armed encampments. Your children, living in a home with such weaponry, are 43 more times likely to be injured by these firearms then some potential intruder. You may believe that such risk is necessary to prevent your imagined future enslavement. I think there's a more rational, sane approach.
Schap January 16, 2013 at 03:51 AM
I have read through all the comments and conclude that our rep made an unkind statement, apologized and now they want to throw her out. Based on these facts her next position should be Vice President I guess, if we follow history.
Jim beam January 16, 2013 at 03:56 AM
Schap: No, Hovey's comments weren't unkind. They were idiotic and mean spirited. By that measure, she should run for governor of Alaska. Wasn't that the hallmark of that grifter from Wasilla?
D. Sickles January 16, 2013 at 03:57 AM
Schap - what about the toilet bowl on her front lawn, how about the secret addition in her basement and the tax controversy? How about the behavior of her husband storming into the Democratic headquarters? Is just keeps going on and on.
Life By The Green January 16, 2013 at 04:40 AM
Aside from the fact that once again you are projecting your preconceptions on me and my family, I believe that we share common ground. We both cherish the ability to speak freely, as guaranteed by the 1st Amendment. I can only hope that your assertions about the 2nd Amendment prove to be correct, because if you're wrong, we'll both risk losing the right to engage in this type of dialogue.
Jim beam January 16, 2013 at 04:45 AM
Life By the Green: Well said, my friend. As long as we can engage in such discourse in a civil manner then we help to preserve our republic. Despite our differences, we are not adversaries but countrymen. God bless these United States.
jim laguardia January 16, 2013 at 06:06 AM
LBTG To associate assault weapon and mass shootings and the protection of our children in todays society with hittler is an offense to your ancestors.... For shame
Cara J. Kramer January 16, 2013 at 02:45 PM
Hovey also has a long history of badgering the press (wouldn't it be great if Bill had the guts to weigh in on this?) if they don't include all her press releases & pictures & announcements in their publications, as well as others who forget to mention her when they are thanking people for doing something (good thing JP never forgets to thank her). She is one of the most political people I have ever had the misfortune of meeting. Everything is about getting her name out there & getting credit even for things she didn't do. Maybe she mistakenly thought Giffords & everyone else think the same way.
jim laguardia January 16, 2013 at 03:36 PM
BTW it should be noted that Steve Vavrek appears to be just about the only one who took the high road, by basically saying she does her job, I haven't followed this controversy, and what she does on her own time is her business.
Schap January 16, 2013 at 03:46 PM
I guess you are correct if it has to do with tax controvery, she should run for Secretary of the Treasury so she can follow in the foot steps of that possible cheat? What was his name?
jon watson January 16, 2013 at 07:58 PM
Donna Gail January 17, 2013 at 01:47 AM
Nick Kapoor should also get credit for taking the high road, Jim. Note that he did not call for Hovey's resignation - saying that it was her decision - and, as far as I know, he has not pounced on this error in judgment by Hovey for his own political gain. Instead he said we should move on and let the families heal. I have alot of respect for the way he has handled this.
jim laguardia January 17, 2013 at 05:08 AM
Sorry I was referring to the GOP leaders in town who instead of saying you know what subs made a mistake but I still support her, instead they chose to say things about other people and to make it partisan is wrong.... You know the ones who all had to stand in line to use the one and only bathroom in her house at the GOP functions
EH Mom January 18, 2013 at 03:09 AM
DebraLee Hovey has blatantly demonstrated she is not capable of sound judgment or responsible legislative decision making. DebraLee Hovey's nasty, vindictive attitude and continuous irresponsible behavior is NOT what she was elected to do and NOT how Connecticut residents want to be represented. Her spiteful actions have caused an irreversible nationwide view of Ugly shame upon The State of Connecticut. Her lack of remorse in the form of attempted damage control has only caused more pain, anger and disgust to familys & residents than can be endured. She is a hypocrite who has abused her elected position. She has failed to honor her oath in that she, with intention, maliciously spoke for the people of Connecticut and neglected her main duty... representing her constituency. It is Newtown's, Monroe’s, Connecticut’s and our Nation's best interest that DebraLee Hovey resigns immediately.
Rt25 January 22, 2013 at 01:00 PM
And, who will replace her? the great Mr. Kapoor??


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