Going door-to-door with Brenda Kupchick

To campaign with Republican state representative nominee Brenda Kupchick is to campaign with her family and friends.

"Has everyone got a clipboard?" Kupchick asks as she hops into a Nissan Rogue SUV with her campaign's event coordinator, Alexa Mullady, and her seven-year-old nieces, twins Gianna and Allie.

"Yup, I've got one," Mullady confirms.

"Good. Now put your seatbelts on please, girls," she instructs her nieces.

Giana and Allie comply. Kupchick then counts the stacks of campaign flyers that she has bundled into a tote bag.

"Are we ever gonna get to walk?" Allie asks.

"Yeah, I want to walk too," Gianna rejoins.

"Yes we are. We're going now," Kupchick responds. "Are you ready, Lex?"

Mullady, who is driving, nods and backs the Nissan out of the parking lot at the Fairfield Republican Party headquarters at 1515 Black Rock Turnpike. They depart for an afternoon of door-to-door campaigning in Fairfield in the 132nd District, where Kupchick is running against incumbent Democratic state Rep. Tom Drew.

Minutes later, Kupchick, 45, jumps out of the Nissan and begins walking the streets of Tunxis Hill, a section of eastern Fairfield. Quickly, she settles into a rhythm of ringing doorbells, chatting with residents, and handing out flyers that outline her background and her policy positions.

"I like going door-to-door," she says. "That's the way you really get to know people. I want to meet people face-to-face and for them to see who I really am."

Accompanying Kupchick is a coterie of colleagues from past positions. Mullady served with her in the Fairfield Representative Town Meeting and on the town's Board of Education. She is also joined by campaign volunteers Jon Crovo and Paul Pimentel who worked with Kupchick as staffers for former Congressman Chris Shays. Her sister Lisa, mother of Gianna and Allie, also accompanies the team.

Most of Kupchick's interactions with voters are brief and consist of her introducing herself and handing out her flyer.

"I hope that you'll read this and please call me if you have any questions," she often says.

When residents are not home, which is often, Kupchick slides the flyer through a door handle or behind a mailbox with a handwritten note that reads "Sorry I missed meeting you today. Brenda."

On this day, Kupchick shares this task with her nieces, who bound up steps and deposit flyers. Campaign law prohibits candidates from placing literature inside mailboxes, a regulation that Kupchick's young staffers conscientiously follow.

"Aunt Brenda, I put it [the flyer] next to the mailbox. I didn't put it inside," Gianna declares.

"Yeah, anywhere but in the mailbox," Allie affirms with a nod of the head.

Kupchick's journey through Tunxis Hill reveals a side of Fairfield different from the expansive colonials that pervade in other parts of the 132nd District--an area that stretches from Southport in the west to Tunxis Hill in the east. Instead, many compact bungalows and shingled duplex houses line the winding, sloping streets of Tunxis Hill.

"This is a blue-collar, working class neighborhood," Kupchick says. "It's traditionally Democratic, but I'll knock on doors because I know people here."

The day's campaigning also entails much interaction with the canine constituency. Yelps, barks, and the inevitable scamper of paws at the front door accompany many approaches by Kupchick.

"I guess you have to do it all," Deirdre Eller says, as Kupchick pats Eller's Labrador retriever. "Not only do you have to kiss all the babies, you have to pet all the dogs too."

When human residents have more time to talk, Kupchick engages in more policy-driven conversation.

"I think Connecticut's in real trouble," she tells Eliz Kakas. "Taxes are far too high. Our jobs are now going to Delaware and Virginia."

"Yes, all the industries seem to be moving out. It's a pretty bad situation," says Kakas.

Kakas sighs and offers a weary smile.

"So you're going door-to-door?" she says rhetorically. "That's nice. Politicians don't really do that anymore."

By 5 p.m., the sun hovers less intensely in the sky. Kupchick and her team, however, maintain a brisk pace of talking with voters and slotting flyers through door handles. Flanked by Gianna and Allie, Kupchick strides up an incline on Bullard Road when the Nissan pulls up.

The passenger window rolls down and Mullady calls out to Kupchick's nieces.

"How are you girls doing? You need to eat something? You need a break?"

"No! I want to keep going," exclaims Allie.

"Yeah, we want to keep walking with Aunt Brenda," adds Gianna.

"You heard them. They want to keep going," Kupchick says with a wry smile.

"Alright," says Mullady. "See you girls later."

The window rolls up, and the Nissan pulls away. Kupchick and her two young staffers do not look back. They push on up the hill toward the next house, with the gruff bark of one of its residents already audible.