In a race against two Windsor political heavy-hitters in Mayor Don Trinks and Democratic Town Committee Chair Leo Canty, 28-year-old Hartford-native Brandon McGee can be easily mistaken for a political novice.
With signs of support popping up on lawns across the newly-redrawn fifth district, however, it's clear that McGee is not only a seasoned campaigner, but he's also a talented community organizer.
Those talents stretch back to his college days where he served as president of Alabama's youth and college division of NAACP and worked on the floor of the state legislature.
He continues to use those talents today as he has worked for years with Hartford politicians in an effort to produce positive changes in Hartford's public education system and works to improve his community as the economic development chair of his local neighborhood revitalization zone.
Leading up to the August 14 primary, in which Democrats will elect a candidate to run in November's election, McGee is counting on the utilization of his community-organizing skills and his passion for making positive change to win an opportunity to better the lives of local families.
As the fifth district extends from Windsor Center all the way south into Hartford's north end, the issues at hand are numerous and varied in nature, McGee says, but at the crux is the need to provide families with the tools they necessary to better their lives.
Among those tools, according to McGee, are tax reform, pro-business legislation, particularly for businesses in Wilson, and improved local housing for families, McGee says, have been provided section 8 vouchers to live in communities surrounding the capital city.
He's also taking aim at decreasing violence in Hartford and improving public educational opportunities in both towns.
"A lot of young people are falling by the wayside because of dated policy, dated legislation that's not helping to speak to the culture of some of our young people in the school system," he said, adding that both education and violence must be addressed in ways other than "dumping money here and there."
Instead, McGee advocates the implementation of a neighborhood approach to engendering genuine care among neighbors — an effort to supplement the overhaul of dated legislation.
Whichever issue is on the table, he says it's important for the fifth district representative to listen to the concerns of his constituents.
Whomever voters elect to represent the fifth district, must also succeed at something McGee touts as something he's good at: "Getting on the grassroots level to understand where people are and what's keeping them from moving forward."
He's running for a seat currently held by Hartford's Marie Kirkley-Bey, who has announced her retirement since the redrawing of district lines. Although the new lines have given Windsor a large majority in the district, something Canty and other Windsor democrats have fought for, for years, McGee says the representative's place of residence won't make a difference when they are seated in 2013.
"Residents need a leader who is going to listen and then execute," said McGee, adding that his family living in Windsor, and his recent experience working with "major stakeholders in town" — he has recently worked on the creation of a new non-profit organization with Windsor Police Chief Kevin Searles, Windsor Chamber of Commerce Director Jane Garibay, Town Councilwoman Lisa Boccia, and other volunteers — give him an advantage on the state level because he is invested in both Windsor and Hartford.
While his two challengers are well known political figures from the town that holds a majority in the district, McGee isn't shy about expressing his belief that having both Canty and Trinks in the race works to his advantage as well.
"I know that for a fact," McGee responded when asked if Trinks and Canty will split the local vote.
Having given Trinks a delegate at the Democratic nominating convention in May to ensure Windsor's sitting mayor qualified for the primary, McGee says his strategy of getting two Windsor candidates to stay in the race "heightens my chances of winning."
On August 14, Democratic voters will have the opportunity to cast their votes when McGee appears on the ballot alongside Canty and Trinks. The winner of the primary will go on November's ballot against Republican candidate, and current Windsor Board of Education Minority Leader, Paul Panos.