Special election: Democrat Patricia Billie Miller aims to 'be a stronger voice' for Stamford, Darien

STAMFORD — After more than a decade representing the 145th’s House District, state Rep. Patricia Billie Miller said she wants to become a state senator because it will allow her to “be a stronger voice” not only for Stamford, a part of which she already represents, but also Darien.

Miller, age 65, hopes to take the 27th District seat, which became available earlier this year when Carlo Leone left the Senate and became an adviser to the state Department of Transportation’s commissioner.

Education has long been her top priority, Miller said, but the COVID-19 pandemic “has changed that.” Now, in addition to schools, she said she is focused on how the pandemic is affecting small businesses, jobs, workforce development and housing, as well as the disproportionate effects of the disease on communities of color.

“It’s looking at the impact that COVID has had on the state and the people of the state holistically,” she said.

Miller said she was disappointed that Gov. Ned Lamont recently changed his approach to vaccine distribution in the state. She criticized the new plan for not prioritizing essential workers and people with certain underlying conditions, as had previously been expected.

People like grocery store workers have “put their lives on the line, so why shouldn’t they be entitled to getting vaccinated first?” Miller said. “Why are we changing … the rules in the middle of the game? And so, I’ll be honest, I appreciate the governor trying to roll this out, but I was getting complaints from my constituents.”

Miller is currently an assistant majority leader in the House. Miller, who is the first Black person to represent Stamford in the state’s legislature, co-chairs the General Bonding Subcommittee and also sits on the Education and Judiciary committees. She was previously a member of the Stamford Board of Representatives. She also worked for more than two decades at the Stamford Housing Authority and is an affordable housing consultant today.

During a debate with her Republican opponent, Joshua Esses, and Independent candidate Brian Merlen, Esses tried to distinguish himself from Miller when the discussion turned to a proposed tax on residences that have a market value of more than $430,000. Esses said he opposes the idea, while Miller called the proposal a “conversation.”

Miller said she stands by her response at the debate, and described Esses as “inexperienced.”

“It’s very easy to criticize from the outside looking in because until you’re in it, you don’t know how the process works,” she said. “Every concept that’s put forth in the General Assembly is a discussion.”

She added that she will share with leadership the feedback she has gotten from constituents on the proposal.

“So I’m not going to say ‘no,’” Miller said. “I’m going to say, like I will with … most bills, that it is a discussion and let’s talk about it.”

Both at the debate and during her interview with The Stamford Advocate, Miller emphasized her experience as a lawmaker.

“I want … the voters of the 27th District to know that at a time like this, we need someone with experience,” she told The Advocate. “And I learned that in the 2009 crisis, Great Recession — that experience is very important during a time of crisis, and we’re in a crisis.”

Joshua Fedeli, the Stamford Democratic City Committee’s chairman, said Miller “represents the best of Stamford.”

“As a legislator she is a true and unwavering voice for her constituents and fights tirelessly for them in Hartford,” Fedeli said in a statement. “Pat is so much more than a legislator though. She is a woman of faith, a strong leader with empathy and true love for her community and she is exactly what the 27th District needs right now.”