After completing 11 Ironman triathlons, Kevin Coyner has had no problem finding the energy needed to run a campaign for state office.
As a former cardiac intensive-care nurse, Sue Brand was often the one offering the encouragement she now finds others give her on the campaign trail.
Both are hoping to emerge victorious Tuesday in the Democratic primary for the 132nd District in the state House of Representatives. The winner will take on state Rep. Brenda Kupchick, a first-term Republican, in November.
Brand, 53, a Board of Education member, eked out a one-vote win over Coyner in the Democratic caucus for the nomination in May. It didn't take long after the votes were tallied for the 53-year-old Coyner, a Greenwich firefighter, to decide to wage a primary.
The boundaries for the House district were re-drawn earlier this year to include all of Representative Town Meeting Districts 1 and 9, and parts of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8. Although local redistricting is on hold because a bipartisan committee has yet to agree on a new map for the RTM districts, neither candidate feels it will have an impact on voter turnout next week.
The primary pits a longtime resident, Brand, against a relative newcomer to town. Brand has lived in Fairfield for 20 years, while Coyner moved here from Greenwich three years ago.
Both have public-service experience they believe makes them the best person for the job of representing the legislative district in Hartford.
"I won't need to learn on the job," Coyner said. "Having worked professionally in the global business world and as a career firefighter, as well as in the U.S. Senate, I have the unique insights and viewpoint to see the issues that face our community and the know-how to accomplish positive change."
Coyner worked for three years as a legislative assistant to Frank Murkowski, former U.S. senator from Alaska, and served on the Greenwich RTM. He also is an elected member of the Retirement Board in Greenwich and a former bond trader.
"As an elected member of the Board of Education since 2007 and former Board of Education chair, I oversaw a $150 million operating budget, more than 10,000 school children and 1,000 employees," Brand said. "My service on local and regional boards has provided me with significant practical experience in municipal budgets and finance. Given my background and the issues we are facing, I think I can do justice to the needs of Fairfield at the state level."
Brand also serves as the school board representative to the town's Board of Health.
"We need a strategic approach to planned economic development that will stimulate job growth and broaden the nonresidential tax base," Brand said. "My focus as a state representative would be on a comprehensive plan that incorporates job growth, affordable health care, education for the jobs of the 21st century, more rail transportation for our commuters, and affordable housing for senior citizens, while preserving our environment, including our beautiful shoreline."
Coyner doesn't disagree that those are voters' top concerns.
"Those are the most important issues that are always on the front burner," he said. "Also, a concern that I have encountered in my neighborhood walks is the loss of confidence the public has in its leaders and their inability to move us forward in a direction that unites rather than divides us. I share this concern, which is why I'm running for state representative to work toward collaborative positive change to benefit Fairfield and the state."
Though a newcomer in local political circles, Coyner said being an effective state representative "takes a background in business, public service and politics, not just name recognition."
For Brand, "I've been committed to making Fairfield a better place for the past 20 years. I deeply appreciate the trust that the people of Fairfield have placed in me to date."
Both candidates expressed confidence in their campaigns, and said they have been going door to door to meet voters.
"The response I've received has been truly heartwarming," said Brand, who estimates that she has met 1,000 district voters during her campaign swings. "The encouragement I've received has been energizing."
Coyner said his reception has been enthusiastic.
"Voters really like my qualifications and my passion and ideas about how to work toward a better Fairfield and Connecticut," he said
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