FAIRFIELD — State Rep. Brenda Kupchick, a Republican and the second longest-serving member of Fairfield’s state delegation, is facing Democratic challenger Caitlin Clarkson Pereira on the November ballot.

Kupchick started her political life on the Representative Town Meeting and the Board of Education before being elected to the General Assembly, and is serving her fourth term. She points to her experience with a record of results as the reason to send her back to Hartford to represent the 132nd District.

“I’m a third-generation Fairfielder. My husband and I raised our son here, who attended our public schools,” Kupchick said. “Being on the PTA, running a small business for close to 30 years, my experience serving as an RTM member, on Fairfield’s Board of Education, Parks and Recreation Commission and as Fairfield’s state representative has given me a unique and broad perspective that I believe is vital as the Connecticut General Assembly faces this critical point in our state’s future.”

Pereira, who grew up in Fairfield, also cited her experience and her commitment to the community as reasons she is a good fit for the position.

“My background is in higher education, and I know the vital need to have an educated workforce to bolster Connecticut’s economy,” Pereira said. “I also know the struggle of working families firsthand, and will be informed by those experiences every step of the way.”

She said she doesn’t see this as a new career, but said she is invested in the future of the town, the state and country. “Our economy will succeed if the people of our state succeed.”

To get the state’s finances back on solid ground, Pereira said the state must ensure everything that can be done to grow the economy is being done.

“Short-term solutions and detrimental cuts to critical services prevent Connecticut from competing in the 21st century,” she said. “Connecticut must attract and retain young people through a variety of incentives to make Connecticut their chosen place of work for the long term, such as sufficient quality housing to rent or buy, an economy that gives rise to new companies with jobs that are both well-paying and innovative and can take advantage of the undoubted talent that is in the local towns and the state as a whole.”

Pereira said equal pay for equal work is a necessity, along with help with the cost of child care for working families, and providing self-funded, paid family medical leave so families have the needed resources to take time off for parental care, child bonding or their own medical needs.

“It’s critical to connect all workers with jobs to expand our economy, through a great transportation infrastructure that makes it easy to get to work and is a pleasant experience so that more people are willing to use it,” Pereira said.

Working at a state university, she said she sees graduates choose jobs in Connecticut. “When families succeed, the economy succeeds,” Pereira said. “We have to stop kicking the can down the road and look toward our long-term future if we are to get our fiscal house in order.”

Kupchick said the next Legislature will be responsible for solving a $4.2 billion biennial deficit and must focus on both short- and long-term solutions to the state’s budget deficit, while finding efficiencies “and making other common-sense reductions to the budget.”

As an example, Kupchick said the process for establishing state budgets needs to change.

“Currently, the Appropriations Committee builds a spending plan before the Finance Committee, on which I serve, identifies available revenue,” she said. “This is a backward approach and should be changed.” Borrowing, she said, has skyrocketed since Gov. Dannel P. Malloy took office. However, Kuphick said, GOP proposals to institute a strict bonding and spending cap were passed in the budget during the session which will help put the state on more stable footing.

Kupchick said state agencies must be held accountable. “Watchdog groups have reported high levels of fraud in state-funded programs,” she said. “Addressing these issues and creating a predictable fiscal climate with pro-economic growth policies will attract businesses so Connecticut can replace the jobs we’ve lost and add new ones.”

Gun control issues hit close to home for both candidates.

“One of the most significant bills I voted on as a legislator was on gun safety, mental health and school security in 2014 in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown,” Kupchick said. “During the 2018 legislative session, I co-sponsored Public Act 18-29, which bans bump stocks, and House Bill 5540, a bill on ghost guns that wasn’t called for a vote in the House.”

Kupchick said she is supportive of legislation to block the sale of 3D-printed guns and other untraceable ghost guns.

“I am unequivocally opposed to the production of 3D-printed guns and ‘ghost guns’ and, if elected, I’ll do everything in my power to stop them,” Pereira said. She said she would make sure there were no exceptions to any ban on the 3D or ghost guns, noting Republicans tried to extend the deadline for when the bump stock law would go into effect and allow current owners to keep them.

“This makes no sense,” Pereira said. “If we make them illegal because they’re dangerous, they should be illegal for everybody and they should be illegal now.”

Should she win election, Pereira said the first bill she wants to introduce is a child and dependent care tax credit. “This is more than just a question of fairness,” she said, “it is vital to helping Connecticut’s struggling economy.”

Child care costs are one of the largest expenses for working families, she said, and something she has experienced firsthand. “My focus throughout the session will be on providing greater opportunities for folks living in Connecticut, regardless of their gender, to fully participate in our economy,” Pereira said. “That takes the form of paid family medical leave, expanding job training to connect young people with the skilled manufacturing jobs that are expanding in Connecticut, and reducing the burden of health care expenses on our working families.”

“Getting Connecticut’s fiscal house in order, improving our economy and investing in our infrastructure should be top priorities for every legislator,” Kupchick said. “Fairfield County is the economic engine of our state and is crucial toward growing our economy.”

She said Connecticut outspends the national average in road construction by $250,000 per mile due to high administrative costs.

“During the last seven years, Connecticut spent $567 million on a new busway from New Britain to Hartford that costs $17.5 million to operate each year, and whose light ridership simply doesn’t make sense,” Kupchick said. “Nor did the $1 billion dollar price tag for the Hartford to Springfield rail line, which will cost $27 million each year to operate.”

She said it is frustrating the $155 million the state bonded for the rail line in 2016 would have covered almost all of the costs for needed repairs to the Metro-North New Haven Line. The New Haven line, she said, is the busiest in the country and vital to the state’s economy.

“Unless and until we fix our fiscal crisis, improve our infrastructure and grow our economy,” Kupchick said, “working on important issues, protecting seniors and our most vulnerable citizens, improving mental health access, investing in education, passing legislation to improve our environment, and animal welfare will be more challenging.”

greilly@ctpost.com; 203-842-2585