District Profile: Connecticut -- 6th District
Northwest -- New Britain
The 6th blends the pastoral and peaceful -- villages and small towns, dairy farms and nurseries -- with more modern influences: hundreds of defense subcontractors. The Litchfield Hills, at the foot of the Berkshires, have attracted escapees from New York.
But for many other residents of the 6th, downsizing in the defense industry may mean hard times ahead.
United Technologies Corp. made sharp reductions in its Connecticut work force with thousands of those layoffs affecting divisions spread throughout the 6th, including Hamilton Standard in Windsor Locks, Pratt & Whitney in Southington, and Otis elevators and Carrier air conditioning, both in Farmington. When Pratt & Whitney announced it was scaling back, the Shop Rite grocery store in Southington said it, too, would shut down. Similar stories of retrenchment are often heard at some 300 defense subcontractors in the 6th.
Nowhere are economic problems more evident than in New Britain, the largest city in the 6th and one hit particularly hard by industrial decline. Since the Fafnir ball-bearing plant closed in the late 1980s, the city of 75,000 people has seen a number of its businesses fold or move.
Take a walk down one of New Britain's two main thoroughfares, Arch or Broad streets, and the struggle is obvious. The sidewalks and roads are crumbling; much of the housing is archaic. A city once filled with Polish immigrants is now a melting pot of blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Italians and Poles straining to get along.
The city's largest employer, tool manufacturer Stanley Works, has enabled New Britain to retain its longtime moniker "Hardware City."
Smaller communities in the district are not immune from bigger-city problems. Many retail stores have abandoned Main Street locales in favor of shopping malls. A 4.5 percent state income tax imposed in 1991 put an extra pinch on middle-income families struggling to get through recessionary times.
In a state where most people have been accustomed to comfortable lifestyles, unemployment is bringing difficulties normally associated with inner cities, such as drug abuse and homelessness. Officials are wrestling with questions about where to build homeless shelters, how to set up community health clinics and where to find money for drug treatment centers.
Residents of the 6th supported Republican presidential candidates in the good-times 1980s, but the dramatically different economic climate of 1992 helped Bill Clinton score a comfortable victory in the district.
The House seat switched from Democratic to Republican control with Johnson's narrow open-seat victory in 1982. Since then, her moderate-to-liberal House voting record has well satisfied the voters; even in 1994, Johnson won overwhelmingly.
Copyright © 1996 Congressional Quarterly, Inc. All rights reserved.
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