The race to replace state former state Sen. Tom Gaffey in 13th state senate district is getting nasty with a Meriden resident claiming that “push polling” telephone calls are being made trying to portray Democrat Tom Bruenn in a negative way because he is gay.

Meriden resident Kevin Larsen says he knows of at least one phone call in which the caller asked, “Would you be comfortable or uncomfortable with a state senator who is openly gay?” The caller did not identify himself as being from any organization according to Larsen. Bruenn is a member of the Meriden School Board and a retired teacher. He is facing off against Republican Len Suzio who ran against and lost to Gaffey in this last election. Gaffey subsequently resigned after pleading guilty to larceny charges for double billing his political action committee and the state legislature for government-related trips.

Suzio tells The Hanging Shad, “I have no knowledge of any such effort [of push polling] and I certainly condemn it. I like Tom Bruenn. We disagree on the issues but I believe him to be a gentleman and I would never make it [his sexual preference] an issue. It’s a non-issue.”

State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney says he knows Len Suzio and knows he would have no part of an effort to make anyone’s sexuality an issue. “Unfortunately, push polling has become part of politics and I wish it would stop. But that question [about a gay senator] is deplorable,” McKinney said. “To try to make an issue of whether someone’s sexuality, race, religion or gender would determine whether that person would make a good legislator is disgusting. Whoever is responsible for this should be exposed and shamed and should crawl back under the rock they came from.”

Larsen was the wrong person to call to try to disparage Bruenn. He is a Bruenn supporter and had Bruenn as a teacher in school. “It saddens me that in 2011, this [the fact that Bruenn is gay] is even an issue,” Larsen said. “And it’s even more egregious that it’s against someone I know who is such a strong supporter of education and who has gone above and beyond for his students.”

McKinney says the issues the voters really care about are the state budget deficit and how to deal with it—whether to cut spending or raise taxes and whether pensions should be funded. “And I think we [Republicans] are on the right side of these issues.”

Such calls have precedent. Eight years ago, similar calls were made against then-state Senate candidate Andrew McDonald of Stamford. McDonald won and was reelected in every two years since, served as co-chairman of the judiciary committee and recently joined the staff of new Gov. Dannel Malloy.