State rep hopefuls seek party nominations for Fairfield special election
FAIRFIELD — With municipal elections wrapped up, parties are now gearing up for special elections to fill Brenda Kupchick’s state representative seat.
RTM representative Brian Farnen has expressed interest in being the Republican nominee, though he has not confirmed his candidacy. Two Democrats, meanwhile, have thrown their hats in the ring, with Board of Education member Jennifer Leeper and previous Kupchick challenger Caitlin Clarkson Pereira both seeking the nomination.
Selectman-elected Tom Flynn’s seat on the Board of Finance is also up for grabs, and current Selectman Ed Bateson hopes to switch places with Flynn and fill the vacancy.
First Selectwoman-elect Kupchick plans to vacate her seat just before her swearing-in on Nov. 25. Both parties will then nominate candidates to run in a special election for her seat in the 132nd district, which includes RTM Districts 3, 8, 9 and 10.
Candidates will be nominated at special party caucuses. All DTC members will be eligible to vote at their caucus, but only RTC members living in the 132nd district will be eligible for theirs. The state will then set a date for a special election, where only residents of the 132nd district will vote.
Republicans plan to hold this caucus at their Dec. 2 meeting. Democrats have not yet announced a date for their caucus.
While any resident of the district is eligible to seek on the nomination at party caucuses, likely nominees are emerging as the meetings get closer.
Republican Town Committee Chair Jamie Millington previously told the Fairfield Citizen that Brian Farnen, an RTM representative from District 9, was interested in seeking the nomination.
Reached for comment, Farnen said he is still considering the opportunity and has not yet made a formal decision to seek the nomination.
“Fairfield is a wonderful place, and coming off the recent municipal election, I know there is much work to do and issues that need to be addressed,” Farnen added.
So far, no other Republican has expressed interest, Millington said.
On the Democrat side, Caitlin Clarkson Pereira and Jennifer Leeper are competing for the party’s nomination.
Democratic Town Committee Chair Steve Sheinberg did not comment on who the party might support as the nominee - only that members in the 132nd district will vote at the caucus.
Caitlin Clarkson Pereira announced her intention to seek the Democratic nomination at the Nov. 12 DTC meeting.
Pereira said she believes she has the bipartisan skills to galvanize voters and flip the historically red 132nd district.
“I truly believe I can motivate Democrats to vote,” she said. “When it comes to bipartisanship, that is something that I take pride in and understand the importance of those relationships.”
Pereira sought Kupchick’s seat in 2018 and lost the race by just over 1,000 votes. She had been planning to run for the seat again in 2020, recognizing that it often takes more than one bid to overturn an incumbent.
But with Kupchick vacating her seat, the special election poses new opportunities, as well as new challenges.
“It’s a whole new ballgame,” Pereira said. “A special election can be a challenge for many reasons. The main one is that you need to be able to get people out and vote.”
Pereira made news earlier this year for her legal battle with the State Elections Enforcement Agency over whether candidates should be reimbursed for childcare costs while campaigning.
In April, the SEEC ruled that public campaign funds cannot be used for childcare reimbursements. Pereira is now pursuing a lawsuit against the SEEC in objection to the ruling.
Board of Education member Jennifer Leeper also confirmed her intention to seek the Democratic nomination.
“When I ran for Board of Education two years ago, I worked hard to listen to the thoughts and concerns of as many constituents as possible, and I won a town-wide election despite the fact that I had no prior name recognition,” Leeper said. “I am determined to work even harder for this job.”
Leeper said her main concerns are transportation, education and building a business-friendly environment. She said that if nominated, she would work to get the votes needed to flip the district.
“I am committed to being a representative in Hartford that is focused on solutions for Fairfield and Southport,” Leeper said.
On the Board of Finance side, Ed Bateson, who is leaving the Board of Selectman and was recently elected as an RTM District 1 representative, hopes to fill Selectman-elect Tom Flynn’s seat.
“I think my talents would best serve my fellow residents on the Board of Finance at this time,” Bateson said. “I expect to hit the ground running and become a valuable and contributing member to our Board of Finance.”
To gain the seat, Bateson would need to be recommended by the RTC and then appointed by the new Board of Selectmen.
Millington said that to date, Bateson is the only candidate to express interest in the recommendation.
“At this point, it does not look like there’ll be a contest,” Millington said.
The RTC will choose its recommendation for the Board of Finance at its Dec. 2 meeting.