Same race, different day: Leeper challenges Farnen for 132nd state house seat

FAIRFIELD — Democrats unanimously endorsed Jennifer Leeper for the 132nd District Thursday night, setting up a rematch between her and state Rep. Brian Farnen.

Unanimously endorsed by Republicans on Wednesday night, Farnen first won the position in a special election in January, defeating Leeper with 2,463 votes to her 2,384. He filled the seat vacated by First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick after she won the town’s top job in November.

As general counsel for the Connecticut Green Bank, Farnen ran on a platform of bringing jobs and fiscal responsibility to Connecticut. He is a member of the Education, Transportation and the Finance, Revenue and Bonding committees.

Leeper, a current member of the Fairfield Board of Education, said in January that she wanted to bring her experience in public policy for the Connecticut Department of Education to the state legislature. During her acceptance speech on Thursday night, she said her calling to public service is stronger now than it ever has been.

“I feel compelled to do this work,” Leeper said. “That calling wasn’t always apparent to me. Recently, it’s become clearer and clearer.”

Leeper said her commitment to service, whether it be helping refugees in Boston or HIV positive mothers in South Africa, have given her the skills to analyze problems that markets could not solve and draft policy to address them.

Leeper also spoke to national divisions and said Americans need more listening and collaborating. She said residents need elected officials in Hartford that listen to science and make data-driven, compassionate decisions on behalf of their electorate.

“Our post-COVID world will be different than it was before,” she said. “We have a unique opportunity to thoughtfully evaluate exactly the kind of world we want to return to. And I will fight for that more just, empathetic and collaborative future.”

The Board of Education member said the concept of less government meaning greater freedom has been proven false during the pandemic, adding that the importance of honest, transparent and science-based leadership has never been more apparent.

Farnen has also acknowledged the new coronavirus has changed Connecticut.

According to a statement, Farnen’s said in his acceptance speech that he wants to prioritize education so teachers, students and parents are provided with the tools and flexibility to transition back to school in the fall. He said he plans to fight attempts to solve the state’s budget crisis through new taxes on working families.

“It’s been an honor to serve the 132nd District, and with the pandemic, the job of state representative has taken on a more important role,” Farnen said. “From helping local businesses with federal aid programs, to helping constituents navigate their unemployment claims as they work through an antiquated state bureaucracy. ... In these challenging and very different times, now more than ever, we need common-sense solutions that are grounded in transparency and collaboration, not politics.”

Farnen also said he wants to continue to work to rebuild the state’s economy, help small businesses get back on their feet, bolster Connecticut’s public health system and modernize its safety net infrastructure.