Women lead the way in races for state offices

FAIRFIELD — Women dominate the slates of both political parties for this year’s state races, with state Sen. Tony Hwang, R-28, the lone male to find his name on the November ballot.

“We’re proud to have recruited a strong slate of qualified Democratic candidates who put us in a position for success in November,” Democratic Town Committee Chairman Steve Sheinberg said. “This is an accomplished group of professionals who will bring their backgrounds and experience to bear on the issues of tackling the state budget, supporting a strong education system, investing in infrastructure, and advocating for economic and social justice.”

Sheinberg said all of the DTC’s candidates embody progressive Democratic values and are committed to putting people above partisan politics and harmful rhetoric. “We are very excited by the balance of experience and fresh perspectives they bring to the table,” he said. “They are what Fairfield, and Connecticut, needs right now.”

His counterpart at the Republican Town Committee, James Millington, was equally as confident in the GOP slate.

“We have put together an incredible slate of hardworking candidates this year with proven records and results in serving our community,” Millington said. “Our candidates are focused and committed to working hard to address the issues facing Connecticut.”

With difficult years ahead, Millington said, the Republican candidates are ready to meet the challenge. “We need to end one party rule in Hartford and turn our state back around,” he said.

Hwang, a real estate agent, was first elected to the state Senate in 2015, becoming the first Asian-Pacific American state senator in Connecticut. Prior to that, he represented the 134th District for six years. Hwang got his start in politics in 2005 when he was elected to the Representative Town Meeting in Fairfield.

He has a background in labor relations and organizational behavior, and is the ranking member of the Housing and Labor and Public Employees committees.

His Democratic challenger to represent the 28th Senate District — which is made up of Fairfield, Westport, Easton, Newtown and Weston — is political newcomer Michelle Lapine McCabe. A policy advisor and director of the Center for Food Equity and Economic Development, McCabe has served on the Fairfield Library board of trustees and as PTA Council chairman.

The race in the 132nd House district pits veteran Brenda Kupchick, a Republican, against Democrat Caitlin Clarkson Pereira, another political neophyte.

Kupchick is serving her fourth term in Hartford; serves on the General Law, Finance, Revenue and Bonding committees; and is the ranking member of the Housing Committee. A small business owner with her husband, Kupchick first became involved in local politics after founding One Voice, an education advocacy group. She was elected to the RTM in 1999 and served until 2003, when she was elected to the Board of Education. Kupchick returned to the RTM in 2009, serving for another term.

A former member of the Fairfield Taxpayers Association, Kupchick served as constituent representative for former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays from 2002 to 2009 and for former state Sen. John McKinney from 2009 to 2011.

Pereira, a Fairfield native, has received the endorsement of Moms Demand Action Against Gun Violence. She has a master’s degree in counseling and started the website PeaeLoveProgress.com.

Meanwhile, Democrat incumbent Cristin McCarthy Vahey in the 133rd District is being challenged by Republican Sally Connolly.

A Pennsylvania native, Vahey is a trained social worker. She started her political career on the RTM in 2005, and was elected to the Board of Selectmen in 2011. Vahey won an open seat in the state House in 2014, and currently serves on the Appropriations, Education and Transportation committees.

Connolly is taking her second stab at political office. She previously ran for a seat on the Board of Education. A lifelong Fairfield resident, Connolly is a speech-language pathologist at a local nursing home.

Laura Devlin, R-134, is in her second term, representing a district that includes parts of Fairfield and Trumbull. A former Pfizer vice president of communications and human relations, Devlin owns a consulting business. Before being elected to state office, Devlin served on the RTM and the Board of Assessment Appeals.

Her Democratic challenger comes from Trumbull. Ashley Gaudiano is a member of the Trumbull Town Council, a seat she won in 2017 in her first run for public office. Prior to opening a nonprofit consulting business, Gaudiano oversaw communications for a national Bridgeport-based nonprofit.