The recently reconfigured 132nd Assembly District stretches from Melville Avenue at the eastern end of Fairfield to Pequot Avenue in Southport on the other end. Similarly, the candidates for the district seat in the Nov. 6 election -- incumbent Republican state Rep. Brenda Kupchick and Democratic challenger Sue Brand -- reside on opposite sides of town.
Kupchick, first elected to the legislative seat in 2010, lives on Farist Road, off Black Rock Turnpike, not far from the Tunxis Hill area. Brand, a Board of Education member, resides on South Gate Lane, off Pequot Avenue in the Southport neighborhood.
For Brand, the decision to get involved politically came six years ago when she ran for the school board. Her children were off to college, and she said she considered returning to her career as a cardiac intensive care nurse.
"However, I decided that a position on the Board of Education would enable me to help a wider group of people," she said
Kupchick's start came 10 years ago when she said politicians were ignoring the voices of friends and neighbors. She organized a grassroots group, One Voice, and began attending meetings and writing letters.
"When we still were not heard, some of us decided to run for local office," she said. "The first seat I ran for was the Representative Town Meeting."
The incumbent said after getting involved in government locally, she started paying attention to the General Assembly.
"We have a severely unbalanced legislature with a 99 to 52 split," Kupchick said of the Democrats' majority. "This imbalance doesn't represent the majority of the residents who are independents and just want to make a decent living in a state that is affordable."
She and her husband are small business owners, but Kupchick said there are few like her in the assembly, even though small business owners in her estimation are the engine that drives the state's economy.
"I have a track record of bipartisanship, straight talk and giving a voice to people who feel their government doesn't listen," Kupchick said.
Because of her service on the Board of Education and Board of Health, Brand said, she decided to move on to represent the 132nd District in Hartford. She said she has seen an increasing impact on Fairfield from decisions made at the state level, particularly in the areas of health care and education.
"It became clear to me about a year ago that we need a representative in Hartford with the relevant experience and leadership qualities necessary to address these challenges and opportunities," said Brand, who added she's confident she can "leverage" her health care and education experience at the state level.
Brand thinks the differences between her and Kupchick are "clear and significant."
"My bachelor of science degree in nursing, Board of Health experience and 10 years as a cardiac intensive care nurse make me uniquely qualified to address our health-care challenges and job-growth opportunities," Brand said. "Future job opportunities will increasingly be based in sciences."
Kupchick said her strengths are that she gets the point, identifies the problems, discusses solutions with all involved and makes a plan for change.
"I've never been afraid of a challenge," she said. "I worked for Congressman Chris Shays helping the people of Fairfield and the 4th Congressional District cut through red tape. When you spend years fighting bureaucracy, you learn what's wrong and are able to find solutions with legislative action."
Assessing her achievements so far, Kupchick cites her support for a balanced budget that supported the social safety net and education reform without raising taxes, and introducing legislation that required money from fare and rail hikes be used only for mass transit improvements. She also supported expanding legislation that allows college graduates to put a portion of the taxes in an account toward a downpayment on a first home under the "Live here, work here" proposal.
Should she be elected, Brand said she wants to enable the town and state to more quickly address significant challenges to keep Fairfield affordable.
"We need to make faster progress dealing with high unemployment and underemployment, rising taxes due to a lack of growth in the commercial tax base, rising health-care costs and uncertain futures for our graduates," Brand said. "We need to keep Fairfield affordable so that future generations can enjoy the beauty of our town."
After speaking with thousands of Fairfield families while canvassing the district, Brand said the issues for residents consistently are the cost of living here, including taxes and health care, the lack of good paying jobs, as well as concerns about flooding and beach erosion and improving train service.
Walking the neighborhoods in her district, Kupchick said Fairfield residents want to decrease spending, fight high taxes, improve schools, increase job growth and make government more honest and transparent.
Win or lose, both have plans in place for the day after the election.
For Kupchick, it will be the time to thank all the volunteers who worked on her campaign. If she wins, "I'm thinking a day off will be nice after a busy legislative session and campaign, and then I'll be back out in the community listening and learning, and working on ways to help my constituents."
"I am going to try and sleep in for as long as I can and then I am going to have a quiet dinner with my husband."
firstname.lastname@example.org; 203-556-2771; http://twitter.com/GreillyPost
Republican, incumbent in 132nd Assembly District
co-owner, Peter Kupchick Heating & Cooling
Representative Town Meeting member, 1999-2003, 2009-2010
Board of Education, 2003-2009
former cardiac intensive care nurse
Board of Education, 2007-present
Bachelor's degree in nursing, Quinnipiac College