Kupchick claims victory in Fairfield first selectman race
FAIRFIELD — Brenda Kupchick won the First Selectman seat Tuesday night. According to the Registrar of Voters, she had 58 percent of the votes to Mike Tetreau’s 42 percent.
In total, Kupchick’s votes tallied to 10,140, compared with Tetreau’s 7,394
“I’m a third-generation Fairfielder, and I’m the next First Selectwoman of the town of Fairfield,” Kupchick said through tears to a crowd of supporters Tuesday night. “I am so proud that I’m going to be able to lead our town with integrity, with honesty.”
Kupchick, a state representative, claimed the first selectman seat that Tetreau, a Democrat, had held since 2011. Tetreau did not secure a seat on the Board of Selectmen, garnering fewer votes than the two other Selectman candidates.
“The Fairfield voters have spoken,” Tetreau said Tuesday night. “I obviously wish I could continue, but my congratulations to Brenda, and my best wishes to her for leading the town going forward.”
Republican Tom Flynn and Democrat Nancy Lefkowitz secured the two other Selectman seats, with 8,913 and 8,484 votes, respectively. The Republicans now have a majority on the Board of Selectmen.
According to the Registrar of Voters, roughly 43 percent of registered voters in each district voted, on average.
The First Selectman race kicked into high gear in August, when the Republican party seized upon a scandal that began with the arrests of two town employees and Julian Enterprise’s co-owner for mismanagement of the town’s fill pile.
Joseph Michelangelo, who served as the town’s public works director since 2012, is accused of conspiring with Scott Bartlett, the town’s superintendent of public works and Jason Julian to allow the company to dump truck loads of contaminated waste into the pile.
Julian then resold some of the contaminated soil as clean fill for construction projects in the town. After testing 60 sites at parks, fields and playgrounds, the town identified eight areas that need to be cleaned up, a million-dollar process.
The issue quickly became a partisan conflict, with Republicans assigning blame to Tetreau’s leadership and saying it was time for a change. Democrats called the finger-pointing political weaponization blowing the issue out of proportion, repeatedly citing advisories from the state Department of Health saying the fields were safe for use.
The fill pile issue became a deciding factor in the election. At debates, Kupchick said Tetreau’s lack of oversight of the Public Works department was to blame. She criticized, among other things, his failure to respond to residents’ concerns about the fields and use of a communications consultant.
Tetreau at the debates called out Kupchick’s blame stance as fearmongering for political gain. He stressed his vigilant response to the issue and active leadership, noting that he ordered the police investigation into the pile in the first place.
Other hot-button issues in the First Selectman race included economic development, affordable housing and the education budget.
While both candidates asserted that commercial development is key in order to grow the grand list and keep taxes from rising, they disagreed about the town’s progress so far.
While Tetreau vowed to continue his proven success bringing vibrant businesses into town, Kupchick said Tetreau hadn’t done enough at the Metro Center and other areas with high potentially taxable space.
On education, Tetreau criticized Kupchick for not voicing her support for a 504-student sized Mill Hill school when it contentiously came before town boards in June. In an almost entirely partisan vote, Republicans forced the school to a smaller, 441-student size against the wishes of the Board of Education.
While Kupchick said that she, as an education advocate, would have supported the 504 proposal, Tetreau questioned her silence at the time of the vote and accused her of bowing to party politics.
With election results in, Tetreau has a few more weeks in office as first selectman before Kupchick is sworn in on Nov. 25.