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Mass Murder Survivor Runs for Connecticut State House

Dr. William Petit Jr., who survived a mass murder in 2007 that claimed the lives of his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and their daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, has decided to enter politics.

Two men who broke into their home raped, beat and strangled Jennifer Hawke-Petit. They tied Hayley and Michaela to their beds before pouring gasoline throughout the house and setting the home on fire. All three were found dead.

Petit was beaten with a baseball bat but managed to escape.

Now two years after he rejected a call from his fellow Republicans to run for Congress, Petit has begun a campaign as the GOP’s nominee for the 22nd state House District seat in the Connecticut General Assembly.

Petit told the New Britain Herald that he was flattered to be asked to run for Congress, but the timing wasn’t right for him.

“Oh, yeah, it would have been a fabulous time to get in, but I had a baby coming and I was only remarried for a year and a half,” he said. “It may have been good, but running even without an incumbent … no, it just didn’t seem right.

But now, Petit said he and his family — wife Christine and son William A. Petit III — are in a good place for him to make a run for the General Assembly.

He expects the campaign to focus on Connecticut’s budget.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (D) and General Assembly Democrats were able to push through a compromise $19.7 billion state budget in May that did not include any tax increases.

However, it did include $821 million in general fund spending cuts. The budget cut $43 million from hospital funding. The budget also chopped $8.7 million from state grants to private, nonprofit agencies that provide mental health and addiction services.

“A vote for this budget is a vote for laying off rape crisis counselors, corrections officers, nurses, mental health workers, and teachers,” said Lori Pelletier, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO.

Before the compromise budget was approved, Gov. Malloy said 2,500 state jobs would be eliminated. But after the deal was done, Malloy said the new budget would mean more jobs would be lost, although he could not say how many.

“We have a state represented by legislators that haven’t been able to take the difficult but necessary positions to get us on the road to recovery,” Petit said. “We’re looking at another $1 to $1.2 billion deficit. Those things affect businesses, certainly those that are looking to come in, and the businesses that are leaving. When a business leaves, less people are paid, the tax base erodes … it spirals.”

State Republican Party Chairman J.R.Romano told the Hartford Courant that Petit, “like many people in the state, believes Democrats who control the state’s General Assembly have badly mismanaged the state’s economy and realize it will take Republicans to fix Connecticut.”

While this may be his first run for office, it is not the first time Petit has been at the center of a political debate.

After the brutal home invasion that claimed the lives of his first wife and daughters, he became an outspoken advocate against repealing capital punishment in Connecticut.

“We believe in the death penalty because we believe it is really the only true just punishment for certain heinous and depraved murders,” he said in 2012.

The Connecticut General Assembly repealed the state’s death penalty in 2012, with the provision that the men convicted and sentenced to die for the murders of Petit’s wife and daughters would not be spared.

However, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in September 2015 that the legislative repeal of the state’s death penalty should apply to all those who were waiting on Death Row for their executions.

That meant the men convinced of killing Petit’s wife and daughters, Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky, would not die, but would spend the rest of their lives in prison.

“The dissenting justices clearly state how the four members of the majority have disregarded keystones of our government structure such as the separation of powers and the role of judicial precedent to reach the decision they hand down today,” Petit said in a statement.

“The death penalty and its application,” Petit added, “is a highly charged topic with profound emotional impact, particularly on their victims and their loved ones.”

Petit’s sister, Cynthia Hawke-Renn, told NBC News that she was “disheartened” by the Connecticut Supreme Court’s ruling.

“For people who commit such heinous and horrific crimes,” she said, “when you torture and rape them and their children, douse them with gasoline and burn them alive — is there not something that should be worse?”

As emotional as the topic may be, Petit has not mentioned renewing the debate over capital punishment.

He is focused strictly on Connecticut’s economy.

“One of the major problems is there’s been an overenthusiasm for revenues that haven’t materialized for years,” he said. “They predict an 8 percent growth in certain revenues when the economy is flat.”

Petit is also unhappy with a taxation policy said is adversely impacting the wealthiest residents of Connecticut.

He complained, “We’re driving out high net worth people.”