Outspoken Port Authority critic Kevin Blacker is challenging two career politicians — and the two-party system — in his run for Congress.
Blacker, a farmer and landscaper from Noank with a degree in soil science, became intimately involved with local politics in the past several years as he advocated against the State Pier project.
Joint venture partners Ørsted and Eversource will use the pier for the assembly and staging of offshore wind components needed for the construction of South Fork Wind, the first of three offshore wind projects State Pier is expected to serve.The project is meant to make New London an offshore hub and create clean energy.
News broke in August that a federal grand jury has subpoenaed six years of port authority records as part of an investigation into the quasi-public agency. The port authority has handed over documents as part of an ethics probe by the Office of State Ethics and to the state attorney general’s office as part of its antitrust probe. The authority additionally provided information to the State Contracting Standards Board when that group investigated the port authority’s procurement activities.
If elected, Blacker, 36, of Noank, said he’d use his voice as a congressman to “get some answers as to what’s going on with the multiple federal investigations.”
“I’d call attention to, there’s a major problem down there, it doesn’t make common practical sense, it’s dishonest, and it’s hurtful to the public,” Blacker said. “I don’t see or hear Mike France doing anything. Joe Courtney’s even worse, he’s going along, supporting the project, basically gushing over how great it is.”
“I think that due to how powerful the political players are that are involved down there, nobody in conventional politics wants to speak up against it,” Blacker added.
Blacker was charged two years ago, first with a felony, then dropped to a misdemeanor, for vandalism after he painted street signs near State Pier pink. The charges are still pending.
Courtney has heard Blacker’s criticisms on the State Pier. He downplayed Blacker’s presence in the race, noting that the Green Party usually puts up a candidate.
“I’ve met Kevin before, he’s a hard-working guy, somebody who’s very passionate about his beliefs, and I certainly respect that,” Courtney said. “The one issue that has become his signature, which is to block the offshore wind project, is contradictory to the Green Party’s stated mission to protect the environment and fight climate change.”
While Courtney admits the plan was flawed in the beginning, he said with accommodations made for Cross Sound Ferry, a $750,000 yearly allowance to New London, and other changes, the plan is now sound.
“At some point the opponents of it have morphed into completely blocking this. I’m for decarbonizing our energy system, so I support the project in its present form,” Courtney said.
In response to Courtney’s comments, Blacker said, “The two FBI investigations and Attorney General investigation of State Pier are no more intended to block offshore wind than I am.”
“I think offshore wind in its current form is a politician’s solution to climate change. Gives guys like Joe something to talk about right before he asks you for a donation,” Blacker added.
The primary critique of Blacker is that he’s a one-issue candidate. But in his interview with The Day, Blacker staked out positions on the economy, abortion, guns and other issues.
He said he is prioritizing “honest, common-sense government that serves the people, the public, not just the politically connected,” and challenging the two-party system. He called himself an “ardent supporter” of former third-party candidate for governor Oz Griebel, who earned almost 4% of the vote in 2018.
Another priority of Blacker’s is an unusual one for a politician.
He said he wants to “remind people that viable, well-staffed, local, independent newspapers are vital to the proper function of the American system.”
“One of the things I set out to do with the State Pier fight was to reestablish … the importance of the newspaper,” Blacker said. “The average citizen armed with the truth and the newspaper can accomplish almost anything.”
Blacker said he would also be focused on climate change, which is in line with the Green Party’s environmentally conscious platform.
“We need a source of energy that is clean and renewable and non-polluting, but it has to be economically viable,” Blacker said. “It’s going to take a combination of a lot of small, common-sense, practical solutions, but also some totally radical innovation.”
“We’re not in a position to not have nuclear energy,” he continued. “The question is, what do you do with the waste? It’s risky. Right now, it’s boring, old technology. We are capable of thinking of a better solution.”
Spending and submarines
Blacker said the government should spend money more efficiently, especially when it comes to military spending.
“I think we need to look at military spending in terms of, a war in Iraq, a war in Afghanistan, sending support to Ukraine — what is the true motivation? With the amount of money we’re spending, is it wise?” Blacker said.
As for Courtney’s record on military spending, Blacker said, “General Dynamics is one of his biggest donors. I think he’s serving them.”
Blacker believes part of the job of representing the 2nd Congressional District is securing submarine contracts, “If we need the submarines…If we truly need the submarines in the interest of national defense.” But, he continued, “I would encourage some diversification at Electric Boat. I know there has been interest in manufacturing wind components, finding something else they can do.”
On taxes, Blacker believes Connecticut’s are crippling. He said his goal would be to close tax loopholes for the wealthiest citizens.
“This person is extremely wealthy and they didn’t pay any tax whatsoever because they used this loophole and that loophole and dodged this and that,” Blacker said. “If the working stiffs like myself are paying 30%, whatever tax bracket we’re in, that doesn’t seem real fair.”
Abortion, guns, the 2020 election
Blacker said that he is pro-choice: “I believe that every pregnancy is unique, and I would have more faith in the mother’s judgment than in any government’s judgment.”
On the issues of guns and mass shootings, Blacker falls somewhere in the middle of Courtney’s support for more stringent gun regulations and France’s fierce belief in the Second Amendment.
“I’ve shot guns before. I own guns. I was taught when I was a kid and I wanted to get a BB gun, I had to take a hunter’s safety course,” he said. “They’re something that have to be handled responsibly because they have the potential to do a lot of harm. I have an open mind about guns.”
“When people talk about guns, the underlying issue is these mass shootings and school shootings and gun deaths and suicides and domestic violence,” he continued. “In the immediate future … I would look for things that both sides could agree on. If you did certain crimes, you can’t own guns.” Blacker also advocated for safer gun storage.
Blacker said he believes Biden won the 2020 election. He said there is no issue with increased absentee balloting. But, “Was it fair? I don’t know.”
The Green Party candidate returned to one of his favorite targets, Deputy Secretary of the State Scott Bates of Stonington, when explaining his reasoning. There have been reports of corruption at the Port Authority during Bates’s leadership as chairman from 2016 to 2019.
“I would have more confidence in the integrity of our elections if we didn’t have people like Scott Bates, who was caught lying to the legislature … as the Chief Operating Officer of the office of the Secretary of the State,” Blacker said. “I don’t believe Donald Trump won, but I also don’t know what the full truth is.”
‘Daily lessons in humility’
Blacker would not trade stocks if elected, and he believes in term limits.
“Joe Courtney’s been there 16 years, Larson’s been there 30 years, DeLauro’s … been there 15 or 20 years,” he said. “Joe’s had his turn, let somebody else have their turn.”
Blacker agreed with the characterization that he is an outsider who found his way into politics. He emphasizes that as one of the biggest differences between he and the other candidates, aside from age — “I’m a lot younger than them, and a young person approaches the world differently than a person who’s on the other side of the hill like them.”
“Farming is nothing but daily lessons in humility and problem solving,” Blacker said. “Both of them are career politicians. They had careers before this, but they’re making a career of politics. Joe was a lawyer, Mike was in the Navy. I don’t have any political experience. My job is mowing lawns, it’s making hay. I’ve taken a lot of risks they wouldn’t be able to, because they’re counting on it for their jobs and their career.”