O’Leary takes on Zupkus in battle for 89th House District seat


By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

PROSPECT — Incumbent state Rep. Lezlye Zupkus, R-Prospect will look to secure her sixth term as she faces Kevin O’Leary, D-Prospect, for the 89th House District seat in the Nov. 8 election.

The 89th district is comprised of Prospect, Bethany and a portion of Cheshire.

Zupkus, 56, who lives in Prospect, said she is running for the seat again because there’s still a lot of work to be done in the state.

“Our state continues to be more unaffordable to live in. Crime is still on the rise,” Zupkus said in a conversation with the Republican-American. “I’m a strong believer in parental rights and I see the government trying to get between the parents and their children.”

O’Leary, 33, who is also a Prospect resident, said he is running because he thinks it’s important that residents have options.

Zupkus, who is married to her husband Greg and has two daughters, said changes made in recent years are causing the state to become less consumer-friendly.

Rep. Lezlye Zupkus. Contributed

“People just cannot afford to live here and, then on top of it, the Democrats are now going to impose a diesel tax which is only going to make it more expensive,” Zupkus said.

Another issue Zupkus notes is how the state approaches problems that arise.

“What I find in the legislature that is very frustrating is that everything is just Band-Aid. It never gets to the root of the problem,” Zupkus said. “So until we stop putting Band-Aids on and get to the root of the problem, it’s never going to change and that’s with everything.”

O’Leary, who is married to Kelsey and has one daughter, said the biggest issue for him is crime and that there’s not enough state funding allocated to the smaller local towns. Prospect and Bethany have inadequate local police forces even though they have resident state trooper programs, he added.

“So the smaller towns, I feel, don’t have the capacity to fund, hire and retain quality candidates to stay on the force and often don’t even have the funding to even have a slot open and so I do think it’s imperative that the state does kick in and offer incentives and some allocation of funds to local towns to be able to hire and retain their own police forces,” O’Leary said.

O’Leary, who is an attorney and partner at Dolan Divorce Lawyers out of New Haven and has a bachelor’s degree in criminology from Central Connecticut State Universtiy, a master’s degree in criminal justice studies from Southern New Hampshire University and a law degree from University of Connecticut School of Law, said one of his goals is to ensure that the state reallocates budget money to allow local towns to hire more police officers.

“To look at the budget and figure out how to relocate from a state end to help these smaller towns who cannot afford hiring police officers on their own, whether it be through COVID stimulus money, whatever it is but that would be my number one goal for that is hire more officers and using the state money to do that,” O’Leary.

Kevin O’Leary (D). Contributed

In addition to the lack of community policing initiatives, O’Leary said another issue for him has always been the environmental conservation of land.

“Prospect has a majority of our land owned by the watershed companies and I do think that we’re at risk of not preserving these lands unless the states starts ensuring,” O’Leary said. “States have land acquisition grants or grants that allow us to obtain watershed property or open space property that can then be turned for recreation use. I think all our local or state reps should be reaching out and proactively trying to speak with the towns and get whatever open space grants are available.”

Zupkus, who is the state director for Best Buddies International, a nonprofit organization and has a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical studies with management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University out of Daytona Beach, FL, said one of her goals is for people to vote Republican this election in order to stop what the Democrats keep forcing on the state.

“I really don’t care if people are Republican or Democrat, they’re taking your money,” Zupkus said. “Whoever you are, the state wants every penny out of your pocket and we have to stop that.”

Zupkus, who has served on the Prospect Planning and Zoning Commission, said voters should vote for her because she’s proven that she fights for every resident in her district.

“I do not support more taxes. I do not support bigger government. I do not support the government getting in between children and their parents,” Zupkus said, alluding to a bill known as ‘An Act Expanding Preschool and Mental and Behavioral Services for Children’ where minors can get mental services and parents don’t have to be contacted.

O’Leary, who was a Prospect mayoral candidate for the last election and served on the Prospect Town Council and Inland Wetlands commission, said he should be elected because he comes from a more practical approach.

“At my time at (Prospect) town council, a lot of the issues that came up, we discussed in a bipartisan manner and that wouldn’t be any different if I were elected as state rep,” O’Leary said. “I do think it’s important to get a consensus or at least close to a consensus and that means crossing party lines, in order to do that.”