By Elio Gugliotti, Editor
PROSPECT — The race in the 89th House District features an incumbent seeking her fifth term in office and challenger pursuing his first seat in the state legislature.
Republican state Rep. Lezlye Zupkus, 54, of Prospect, was first elected to represent the 89th District, which includes Prospect, Bethany and part of Cheshire, in 2012. She has held the seat since.
Zupkus, who is the state director for Best Buddies Connecticut, said she’s running again because she feels more needs to be done to fix issues facing the state.
“The good news is I’m one vote and the bad news is I’m one vote, and I truly believe that our state, it’s a great state, but our financial house is a disaster,” Zupkus said.
Democrat Edward J. Maher III, 40, of Bethany, is challenging Zupkus. Maher serves on the Bethany Community School Board of Education and is a Norwalk firefighter.
Maher could not be reached for comment and did not respond to messages.
After receiving the Democratic endorsement in May, Maher said he has always strived to serve the community and running for state representative is an opportunity to expand the reach of that service.
“The status quo in Hartford isn’t going to cut it anymore. For far too long our problems been have ignored. What’s more, we have failed our most vulnerable, underserved citizens and communities,” he said in a statement.
Zupkus, who is married and has two daughters, earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical studies with management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida.
If reelected, Zupkus said she will work to change laws that grant governors the power to issue executive orders during emergencies, like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since March, Gov. Ned Lamont has issued numerous executive orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Zupkus feels the legislature should have more of a say in the orders.
“If the legislature can go into special session, why can’t we go in and be a part of the whole COVID issue,” she said.
Zupkus said getting the state’s financial house in order and improving the economy are other priorities for her. She said Connecticut continues to be a tax-and-spend state, and the state constantly overregulates businesses.
“We are a great state in a great location. I think taxes and unfriendly business practices have really hurt the state,” she said.
Zupkus feels there are some “low-hanging fruit” the state could pluck to improve its finances. She said the legislature should go through the budget of each agency line by line to determine what programs are working.
“If what they’re funding has worked, great, if it doesn’t work, get rid of it. Stop funding it,” she said.
Zupkus also advocates for pension reform and feels overtime shouldn’t factor in calculating state employee pensions. She believes state government should stay out of local government, pointing to legislation proposed by Democrats in 2019 aimed at consolidating smaller school districts.
Maher, who is married and has three daughters, graduated from New York University in 2004. Before becoming a firefighter, he worked as the production controller for an aerospace component manufacturer in New Haven and in film production.
In the statement released after the endorsements, Maher said he wants to ensure that health care is accessible to all residents, education is equitable and rigorous for all students, and that vocational training is accessible for non-college bound students.
Maher said the state needs strong unions and easy access to union representation for all workers. He believes investing in the state’s infrastructure can provide good paying jobs now to those who need them most while recovering from the losses caused by measures taken to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Maher said he will also fight for racial and social equality. He said he supports police officers, but believes any complaint of abuse by law enforcement needs to be examined and recorded by an independent panel, and any death within police custody must be investigated and prosecuted at the federal level.
“From the moment the next class of senators and state representatives are sworn in next year I will work hard to bring equality to all Connecticut residents and to ensure that no one is held down again while they are begging to breathe,” he said in the statement. “We cannot elect leaders anymore who show up and list the reasons why we cannot do all of these things. We must show up to fight for progress that has heretofore stalled without making any more excuses.”
Zupkus said fighting for her constituents and all Connecticut residents is what she’s done for the last eight years in office, and will continue to do. She said her constituents know where she stands on the issues and she has been responsive to their concerns.
“I serve them,” she said. “That’s what I’m here to do. I work for them and I believe that they know that.”