Fairfield Dems endorse Leeper for state rep after Pereira drops out
FAIRFIELD — Jennifer Leeper will be the Democratic candidate for state representative in the 132nd District’s special election.
She gained the Democratic Town Committee’s unanimous support Tuesday night after her would-be opponent for the endorsement, Caitlin Clarkson Pereira, bowed out of the competition.
Leeper will face the Republican nominee — likely Representative Town Meeting member Brian Farnen — in a special election to fill the legislative seat vacated by newly sworn-in Fairfield First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick. The 132nd District includes RTM districts 3, 8, 9 and 10.
Democrats were expecting to see a vote Tuesday night between Leeper and Pereira, who had both been publicly vying for the endorsement. Pereira, who sought Kupchick’s seat in 2018 and lost by 1,000 votes, had announced on Nov. 12 that she planned to run again.
But Pereira surprised the DTC by withdrawing from the competition Tuesday evening, citing a need for the party to unify around a single candidate.
“The Democrats need to be a team in Fairfield, especially after our most recent election,” she told Hearst Connecticut Media. “This is a time to move forward together and try to flip the seat as one. The seat, and the responsibilities that come with it, are much bigger than I am.”
Pereira has made news for her ongoing legal battle with the State Elections Enforcement Commission over whether public campaign funds can be used for child care costs while campaigning. That fight, she said, will continue. And despite pulling out of the state representative race, Pereira has not ruled out seeking elected office in the future.
“(The seat’s) not going anywhere — and neither am I,” she said. “We will just have to see what the future holds.”
To a standing ovation Tuesday night, Pereira voiced her full support for Leeper.
“I am here to do the next right thing, and that is to support Jenn,” Pereira said.
Leeper, a political consultant who’s served on the Board of Education since 2017, thanked Pereira for her support and leadership.
“Thank you Caitlin,” she said. “You have such a clear and powerful voice, and I hope you’ll share that with me.”
Leeper said she’s committed to flipping the historically red 132nd District with the same hard work that won her a Board of Education seat two years ago.
“After Donald Trump was elected, I knew I had to do more, and I knew I couldn’t hand over this world to my boys without at least putting up a damn good fight,” Leeper said of her decision to enter public service after the 2016 election.
If elected, Leeper said, she would focus on the local issues affecting constituents’ everyday lives, such as transportation, jobs and education. But national issues, she said — including gun control and women’s rights — also originate on the local level.
“This larger fight begins here, tonight, with us,” Leeper said.
State Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, a Democrat who represents Fairfield in the 133rd District, nominated Leeper for the endorsement.
“Jenn Leeper is the candidate we need,” Vahey said. “She’s the partner I need to fight for Fairfield in Hartford.”
DTC Chairman Steve Sheinberg also voiced his support for Leeper’s candidacy, calling on all Democrats to work hard to get her elected in the majority Republican district.
“We need Jenn Leeper in Hartford to represent us,” Sheinberg said. “If Jenn Leeper wins, we all win.”
All 153 at-large members of the DTC were eligible to vote for Tuesday’s endorsement, a departure from past practices in which only DTC members residing in the district in question could vote for the candidate.
The Republican Town Committee has scheduled a special meeting for Monday to endorse their nominee for the special election. So far, Farnen is the only Republican to express interest in the candidacy.
Gov. Ned Lamont is expected to declare a special election soon, likely to be scheduled for January 2020. On that date, all registered Fairfield voters living in the 132nd District would be eligible to vote for their new state representative.