Derek Slap of West Hartford is the Democratic nominee for the 19th district House seat being vacated by Brian Becker.
By Ronni Newton
State Rep. Brian Becker (D- West Hartford, Avon, Farmington), who has represented the 19th district in the State House for the past six years, publicly announced Monday that he will not seek re-election in 2016. On Tuesday night, West Hartford resident Derek Slap was nominated as the Democratic candidate for that seat.
Slap, 42, is the vice president of External Relations at the UConn Foundation, a private non-profit organization, where he focuses on scholarship initiatives, stewardship, and raising the profile of the UConn nation, he said. He joined the UConn Foundation in 2014, and was previously a chief of staff for the State Senate Democrats and communications director for former New Haven Mayor John DeStefano. Many local residents may also remember Slap as an anchor and reporter for NBC Connecticut, where he worked from 1998-2003. Slap is a graduate of Syracuse University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and international relations, and he has an MBA from UConn.
“I’ve spent the better part of a decade as a staff person, but this is my first entry into elected office, and it’s really exciting,” said Slap. He’s confident that his firsthand knowledge of the capitol will be an advantage in his ability to help families.
“I think I’ll really have the ability to get things done in the district and have my priorities heard,” said Slap.
As a staffer Slap worked on the Smart Start public preschool expansion, and said expanding access to education is a priority. “West Hartford has some of the best schools in the state, and that’s not by accident.”
“I’m really running for three reasons: Maggie, Zoe, and Charlie – and all of the children they represent in the district’s three towns,” Slap said. Maggie (11, a sixth grader at Sedgwick Middle School); Zoe (10, a fourth grader at Duffy Elementary School); and Charlie (4, a preschooler) are Slap’s three children. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Alex Tucker Slap, a flute teacher who also plays flute and piccolo in the West Hartford Symphony Orchestra.
Maintaining the high quality of public education in the state is important to keeping people in state when they graduate, he said. “I want people to be able to afford to live here, to stay here and raise their families here, and also not have older people priced out of their homes because of high taxes,” said Slap.
Finding creative ways to strengthen the economy is also a priority, and closely tied to the goal of keeping people in state. Slap pointed to a jobs bill for unemployed veterans he previously worked on as an example.
Slap had been registered as a lobbyist because of a bill involving the UConn Foundation that was being considered in both chambers of the legislature, but said he has de-registered even though it is not required of a candidate, only of an office-holder. “At the [UConn] Foundation, I will ensure that I have no involvement with government relations,” he said.
The opportunity to become a candidate for state representative just arose last week, after Becker officially made the decision not to run. Slap said he was outside playing with his children and received a call from Democratic Town Committee Chairman Jonathan Slifka.
In a news release issued Monday announcing his intentions, Becker thanked the residents of his district for the opportunity to serve the past three terms. “Over that time, I have tried my best to do good in the world and believe I have some successes to show for those efforts,” he said. In his statement, Becker listed the following achievements:
- Establishing the Lead By Example Program that has the state retrofitting its own buildings to make them more energy efficient. To date, the savings from this program total approximately $10 million per year – and continue to grow as more and more projects are undertaken;
- Changing the laws on regionalism to make it easier for municipalities to work together to save money;
- Changing some work rules for home care workers to help keep services affordable for disabled individuals and the elderly;
- Creating an exemption from the state’s Department of Labor rules for owner/operators of trucks to help a local trucking company stay competitive with its national rivals;
- Changing the law to free the legislature’s Program Review and Investigations Committee to investigate those matters of the highest importance to our state instead of repeatedly reviewing 75 specific programs;
- Championing a law to restart and restructure a process to regularly review state regulations and eliminate or change those regulations that are obsolete or overly burdensome;
- Changing the law to help one six-year-old girl with a horrible disease get the help she needed to be able to attend school with the rest of the children her age.
Although he is proud of his achievements, Becker said, “I have been extremely frustrated and disappointed by my inability to effect change on the biggest issues facing our state” and thinks it’s time to give someone else a chance.
Slap said that although he doesn’t know Becker well, he has a great deal of respect for him, and for his work ethic. Becker was known for traveling throughout the three-town district on his scooter, and knocking on thousands of doors. “I talked to him about buying his scooter,” said Slap. But because he doesn’t know how to ride a scooter, a bike might be a better bet, he said.
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