What’s So Special About This Election?

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Special Election Flyers - Harper Treschuk

Harper Treschuk

“Why am I seeing election yard signs if Election Day was back in November?” you might be asking. Occasionally, elections can occur outside of the regular window, and on January 14th, a special election will be held to fill the vacancy of First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick’s seat in the Connecticut House of Representatives. Kupchick, who last represented the 132nd House district, was recently elected to the office of First Selectwoman in the town municipal election. The Prospect interviewed the two candidates–Republican Brian Farnen and Democrat Jennifer Leeper–to learn about their platforms and how they are relevant to the perspective of Ludlowe students.

While Leeper and Farnen represent different political parties, many of their priorities stand on common ground. Leeper cites strengthening education, investing in transportation, incentivizing job growth, and practicing open and transparent governance as key elements of her platform. Farnen intends to focus on education, transportation, and the economy, creating better paying jobs, mitigating wasteful spending, advocating for full education funding, and strengthening transportation infrastructure.

Jennifer Leeper, who is endorsed by the Democratic party, cites her background in public policy and education as an element that sets her candidacy apart. Leeper earned a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago, worked for the CT State Department of Education, and currently serves on the Fairfield Board of Education. “It is my strong belief that we need legislators more focused on policy and solutions,” Leeper says, emphasizing her training and experience in developing and communicating public policy.

Brian Farnen, who is endorsed by the Republican party and the Independent Party, highlights his bipartisan record as a distinguishing feature of his candidacy. Farnen currently serves on the Representative Town Meeting, the legislative body in Fairfield, and the Executive Board of the PTA. Professionally, he works at the Connecticut Green Bank, where he has collaborated with people across the political spectrum. “As a Republican working in clean energy, every day I work with people across the political aisle to find common solutions and compromise for the greater good,” Farnen explains.

When asked which of their priorities were most relevant to high school students, Farnen described his guiding principle of fiscal responsibility: maintaining sustainable finances and economic growth in Connecticut. “To encourage the next generation to stay in Connecticut, we need to make Connecticut more affordable, lower taxes, and create better economic opportunities,” he states. Leeper hopes to integrate a broader awareness of climate change into both legislation and the education system. “Denying science does not yield good policy,” Leeper stresses. “It is important for students to have access to the science and knowledge around climate change so that we are all working together to mitigate its impact on CT and the nation.”

Both candidates emphasize their commitment to supporting the education of Ludlowe students.

“You know what it’s like to be in schools with old bathrooms and classrooms…that smell musty and to have a band room immediately next to the weightlifting room…and no air conditioning,” says Leeper, conveying her intention to invest in Fairfield’s aging school facilities. Leeper’s proposal to offer college loan forgiveness is also designed to retain the talent of Connecticut graduates and encourage them to participate in the economy. “As Ludlowe students are preparing for college, we need to ensure that staying in-state for college is not economically burdening our graduates for the next decade of their lives.”

Farnen expresses his intention to advocate for state education funding and against the current proposal from Hartford that would force school districts to consolidate with neighboring cities. “I will fight against any forced school regionalization proposal and protect the local control of Fairfield’s education system,” Farnen says. Another policy centers on supporting the teacher’s pension fund, which Farnen sees as crucially important in maintaining the high quality of Fairfield’s education. “To continue to attract the best teachers in the country, the state needs to hold up its side of the bargain and properly fund the Connecticut teachers’ pension fund.”

Although the special election is a departure from the usual date, it is clear that both candidates have important proposals to share and the potential to bring positive and influential change to our community. Get out and vote on January 14th!