Growing up, while attending Enfield High and then UConn where he earned his doctoral degree in software engineering, running for public office was the furthest thing on Fontaine's mind. Then there was that spark – an event or issue – that motivates and inspires a non-political person to take the plunge into politics.
“Bernie Sanders was an inspiration for me, the way he talked about issues in a bold and progressive way,” Fontaine said. “He was actually talking about issues that matter, healthcare for everyone, tuition-free public college. He is an honest advocate for working people.”
In the summer of 2017, when the state was locked in a protracted fight over the budget, Fontaine joined the effort of the Connecticut chapter of the Working Families Organization to get petitions signed in his hometown of Wallingford calling for a halt to cuts to basic services and instead requiring the state’s wealthiest residents to pay their fair share of taxes. Wallingford residents signed the petition by the hundreds.
"The effective state and local tax rate paid by the top 1 percent is about half of what low and middle-income earners pay,” Fontaine said. “We just had two tax hikes targeting working families and then years of deep cuts to basic services. It's time to stop the assault on our middle-class, the wealthy should be paying at least the same rates as the rest of us.
“My candidacy grew out of that petition drive. Until that point in my life I never thought about going into politics."
In the fall of 2017, when the petition drive ended, Fontaine still wanted to make a difference in his community. He recognized that Craig Fishbein, Republican incumbent of the 90th State Representative District, didn’t have a Democratic opponent. Fontaine decided to step up.
“Fishbein is really on the extreme end of the political spectrum,” Fontaine said. “He’s doing things that are very damaging. He wants to cut everything, K-12 and higher education, healthcare, Medicare-Savings, financial-aid for college. He hopes to abolish the minimum wage and has put forward a plan that would increase tuition at our public colleges to the level of private universities.
“His proposal to eliminate the income tax will do real damage to our schools and send local property taxes through the roof. At the same time, he has proposed more tax cuts for the wealthiest residents."
Fontaine wants to do what he can to help working families and the middle class.
“I’m a positive guy but I’m also realistic,” Fontaine said. “Connecticut is falling behind neighboring states. I want to focus on the unequal tax situation and the budget so that we can move forward. We need to pass a law for paid family and medical leave. I also want to fund tuition-free state colleges like New York State has done and increase the minimum wage. I want to do what I can to help working families in Connecticut. My opponent has opposed these pro middle-class policies.”
Fontaine said he has knocked on about 20,000 doors during his campaign and will get to many more by the time Election Day arrives on Nov. 6. Throughout his campaign, the face-to-face of door knocking has provided Fontaine with the most insight when it comes to what issues are important to voters in his district.
“It’s an uphill fight when you take on an incumbent,” Fontaine said. “We were one of the earliest campaigns to start door knocking, we started the first week of February. Our campaign has built a real grassroots organization and to see all the volunteers and support is really incredible."
Fontaine and his campaign are sending a message directly to voters when it comes to what can be accomplished.
“People are tired of the doom and gloom, and all of the negativity,” Fontaine said. “Connecticut has serious challenges, but we also have the resources to fix them. We are among the richest states in the richest country in history. We don't have to settle for the dismantling of our middle class. We need someone willing to stand up and say that the corporate and economic elite should be held to the same rules and pay at least the same taxes as the rest of us.
“After talking to so many people, my feeling is we have a real shot to win this. The state is at a major crossroad and Fishbein and I represent two very different paths forward. My overwhelming impression is that people get it, they want a change from the two-party consensus. They are just looking for a candidate willing to lead, to put those ideas and values out there and then go and fight for them. I am prepared to do that.”
For more information go to Fontaine’s website at http://www.fontainefor90.org/.