PROSPECT — The race in the 89th House District features a rematch from two years ago, only this time the roles are reversed.
Republican incumbent Lezlye Zupkus is seeking re-election to her second term in office. Zupkus will have to fend off a challenge from Democrat Vickie Nardello, who she defeated at the polls in 2012.
The 89th District covers Prospect, Bethany and a part of Cheshire. The election is Nov. 4.
Zupkus, 48, state director for the nonprofit Best Buddies Connecticut, said she’s running again because she has represented the district over the past two years the way constituents want to be represented. In talking to constituents, Zupkus said, she’s been told she’s on target with their views.
Zupkus added what is happening in the state financially is not sustainable and a voice is needed to fight against tax increases.
“We need a voice that’s going to stand up for the 89th District so people can afford to stay and live in Connecticut.”
Nardello, 63, a retired public health dental hygienist who worked in the Hartford public school system, represented to district for 18 years until losing to Zupkus. Since losing the election two years ago, Nardello said many people have asked her to consider running again. Aside from what she described as “wide-spread support in the community,” Nardello said she decided to try to reclaim the seat because the state needs people in Hartford “to stand up for people and for the courage of their convictions.”
Nardello said a lot of people talk about the problems in Connecticut without offering solutions.
“I really want to go up there and provide solutions,” Nardello said.
As the country rebounds from a recession, the economy in Connecticut continues to lag behind.
For Zupkus the issue comes down to taxing and spending.
“Stop taxing and stop spending,” Zupkus said. “I think we have a tax-and-spending problem, quite honestly, in this state.”
Zupkus said the states needs to make it affordable for businesses to stay in Connecticut. It’s the businesses that will create jobs and grow the economy, she said.
Zupkus said she’s the right person to help get the state moving in the right direction, pointing to her service on a manufacturing caucus formed last year and endorsements she’s received from the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Connecticut Business and Industry Association.
Nardello said the answer isn’t large tax breaks for companies, but rather creating demand and providing services in the state. She said the state needs to focus on small businesses, manufacturing and green jobs.
“We need to have job programs with specific goals and to follow up on those goals,” Nardello said.
Nardello said the state must talk with business owners. She added small business owners need access to capital at low interest rates to expand, and the state needs to develop a one-stop business center to help businesses cut through the red tape.
“I like to start from the ground up and not the top down,” Nardello said.
When asked what other important issues they feel are facing the state both candidates pointed to education and the new Common Core State Standards.
Common Core is a set of national educational standards that has been adopted by the majority of states. Connecticut adopted the standards in 2010.
“I believe education should be locally controlled,” Zupkus said. “I believe this was forced down our throats.”
Zupkus said the proper procedure wasn’t followed when the state moved forward with adopting the standards, adding that a petition had to be used last year to force a public hearing on Common Core.
Zupkus agrees that benchmarks and standards are needed. However, she said, the right people — local educators — need to be at the table making the decisions.
The candidates found common ground on the issue of Common Core.
Changes to education are among the top issues facing the state, Nardello said.
Nardello said the Common Core State Standards were adopted by the state without legislative approval, and now new curriculum to meet the standards is being implemented rapidly without any input of teachers and local communities.
Nardello agrees that high standards are a good idea. But, she questioned if the state has done enough to prepare teachers and said local input is needed as the state moves forward.
Zupkus wants voters to know that she has been a voice for the district fighting for what’s going to make a difference in the state. She said the state has to change and break away from one-party Democratic rule to move forward.
“There needs to be a balance in Hartford,” Zupkus said.
Nardello said if voters put her back in office she will fight for what’s right.
“I have a love for public service,” Nardello said. “I am willing to fight on behalf of the people of the district, and I’m willing to stand up for what’s right.”