Bob Dombroski, 65, of Wheeler Road has run 4.5 miles a day since he and his wife Anita moved to town in 2003. When the couple lived in Michigan, Dombroski ran 6.2 miles a day. Now the Democrat is running against longtime incumbent State Rep. DebraLee Hovey, a Republican, in the staunchly conservative 112th District.
"When I first ran in Michigan, as now, it was constant uphill running," Dombroski said. "I joined this race, because it's an uphill race, and I enjoy running uphill."
Ten delegates, two from Newtown and eight from Monroe, unanimously nominated Dombroski in the Democratic Convention for the 112th State House District Tuesday night. The 112th represents a portion of Newtown and Monroe.
"The last time I ran for office was in Michigan in 1990, roughly 20 years ago," Dombroski said. "I was a young man. Now near retirement at 65, I will campaign vigorously."
Lee Crouch served as chairman during Tuesday's proceedings and Dr. Alan Vaglivelo was secretary. In his nominating speech, Vaglivelo said, "Bob's strong leadership skills, family values and commitment to community make him an excellent candidate for the 112th District.
Monroe Democratic Town Committee Chairman Nick Kapoor said of Dombroski, "I'm very excited about his campaign. Representative Hovey is going to have to show why she should be reelected. It's a good race. I'm looking forward to a productive discussion of the issues in the 112th."
In a short speech, Dombroski said he was more interested in discussing his own background and qualifications, rather than his opponent's record at this time. But he went on to say a few things about Hovey anyway.
"I, quite frankly, had no impression whatsoever of my opponent," Dombroski said. "One of the salient reasons is I know nothing of my opponent and what she's done — and she's been a representative for over a decade. Now that's disconcerting."
"What we need at this point is somebody to lead," he said. "Somebody to get us out of this mess. We're in a national economy that's akin to The Great Depression."
Dombroski and Anita, president of Housatonic Community College and his wife of 40 years, have two daughters, Kara and Ariel. Ariel earned her Master's Degree in Anthropology from the University of Columbia last year and has been looking for employment ever since.
Dombroski is happy with the job Gov. Dannel Malloy is doing, but complained that there are constant cutbacks "when we need job creation". He believes Connecticut needs more teachers and people in law enforcement.
"I believe in public education and that will be my number one priority in the legislature," said Dombroski. "Educators are our job creators."
Dombroski's late father was a high school physical education teacher and his daughter Kara is an elementary school teacher in Michigan.
Bob Dombroski grew up in Portland, Conn., before school took him to Michigan. He graduated from Wesleyan University before earning his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School at Ann Arbor where he met Anita, his bride-to-be.
Dombroski was an assistant prosecutor and went on to the position of staff attorney with Northern Michigan Legal Services.
"This law firm was a pioneer grantee of J.F.K./L.B.J.'s anti-poverty program," Vaglivelo said in his nominating speech. "Bob stayed on to open up an office in Traverse City, Mich., which went on to serve 10 counties in the northwest region of the lower peninsula. The firm had four attorney's under the national leadership of Jimmy Carter and the then head of the Legal Services Corporation, Hillary Rodham Clinton."
Dombroski said he served there from 1975 to 1984, when President Ronald Reagan cut the program from four attorneys in a bad recession to only Dombrowski.
"Those were the best years of my legal career, helping poor white rural people in northern Michigan," he recalled.
Those receiving assistance were blue collar people working in the mining and timber industry. Dombroski said many of them depended on firewood for heat in the winter and hunted for deer and other wildlife to help to put food on the table.
Dombroski said his family moved to Monroe in 2003 when Anita was hired as a dean at Housatonic Community College. At that time, Dombroski retired from his law practive to care for his ailing father.
Dombroski's father Zygmund died at age 89. The youngest of eight siblings of Polish immigrants, Zygmund grew up on a farm in Portland, graduated from high school and went on to earn a college degree at the University of Alabama when America was in the midst of The Great Depression — a time when less than five percent of the population had college degrees, according to Dombroski.
Dombroski said high school teacher Anna O'Brien encouraged his father to go to college, adding she was also his teacher years later.
Zygmund grew up in a Republican household, but became a Democrat after President Franklin D. Roosevelt impressed him with the New Deal while trying to pull the country out of the Great Depression.
His brother Joe went on to be active in Connecticut politics and Dombroski remembers hearing his uncle and father arguing about politics often.
Dombroski himself ran for a state legislative seat covering the Port Huron area and Sanilac County in Michigan in 1990, but lost.
"The Nichols brothers have a farm in a rural part of the district I ran in," he said. "They were friends with Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted in the Oklahoma City bombing. There is militia there. Not a friendly place for a Democrat to be running."
When asked why he is a Democrat, Dombroski said, "I think it's really easy now to be a Democrat, because of what's happened in the Republican party — how much going on in the national Republican party has filtered down to the state and local level. There's a lack of civility. It's no longer the party of Raymond Baldwin, Clare Booth Luce and Lowell Weicker. Instead its become the party of Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter."