Updated to include videos.
NORWALK, Conn. — Legislative candidate endorsements continued Tuesday, with Fred Wilms and Patrizia Zucaro cruising to Republican candidacies with no opponents.
In addition, State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) was endorsed for reelection Monday, also without opposition.
Duff has political capital in state, is admired and respected by his peers, and has the governor’s and State Senate President’s ears, Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling said in nominating Duff.
NancyOnNorwalk missed the Zoom meeting; Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Eloisa Melendez provided the video Tuesday.
Duff has served as a State Senator since January 2005 and was State Representative for two years before that. He is being challenged by Republican candidate Elisavet “Ellie” Kousidis, who won the Republican endorsement Monday.
The most important thing about Duff is that he espouses Democratic values, Rilling said, listing workers’ rights, gender equality, LGBTQ issues and the right to choose.
“Bob brings back funds for the city of Norwalk, fighting hard to make sure that Norwalk is treated fairly up in Hartford,” Rilling said. “And we know that that has not always been the case. Bob has fought for us to make sure that Hartford hears our voice and Bob has a strong voice up there…. I can’t think of anybody that I would prefer having up in Hartford, other than Bob Duff.”
Former Darien selectman David Bayne, currently Darien Democratic Town Committee Chairman, said he’s known Duff for 15 years and called him a “tireless champion for both Darien and Norwalk.”
“It has been in this time of crisis that is showing the true depth of his passion and commitment to the people that he serves,” Bayne said. “I can attest that Bob has been working seven days a week helping real people solve real problems created by this unprecedented health crisis while also providing the rest of us with the information that we need to keep ourselves and our families safe. … When Bob says he is standing up for you, that’s not just a campaign slogan. That’s a way of life.”
“I’m very honored to accept this nomination. And it is more important than ever, that we continue to fight for the things that matter to us as Democrats, because it matters to the people of the city of Norwalk and to the people of the town of Darien,” Duff said, mentioning raising the minimum wage and paid family medical leave and urging leaders to take care of the public during this time of COVID-19.
“I’m so glad that some of the things that we’ve done over the last few years such as have the largest rainy day fund in the state’s history, not the rainy day fund that had been proposed by the my friends on the other side of the aisle, that has positioned us here in Connecticut to weather the recession and the storm that we’re in right now with COVID-19,” Duff said. “So a lot of the decisions that we made have been on a long term basis have been with best interest of the people of my district and for the people in the state of Connecticut.”
Duff changed his campaign slogan two years ago, from the longtime “Standing up for you” to “Kindness comes back to you.” He flashed that slogan and said he’s promoting it again this year.
“‘Kindness comes back to you’ is really is just as important today as it was two years ago,” Duff said. “We want to make sure that we remain kind, we remain compassionate and do what we need to do in order to help our fellow residents here in the city of Norwalk and in Darien.”
“There’s simply no substitute for experience,” Felix Serrano said in nominating Wilms to represent District 142 in the State House of Representatives.
Wilms’ experience includes four years in the State Rep role. He lost the seat to Democrat Lucy Dathan in 2018 and is seeking to get it back.
“I decided to run again, or reclaim the 142nd seat, because there’s just so much work to do with the state. … The state is in such dire difficulties and you know, and I believe the virus situation is just making it worse and worse,” Wilms said.
Wilms is senior vice president at Webster Bank and led the Norwalk Board of Estimate and Taxation for eight years under former Mayor Richard Moccia. Dathan is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who has served as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for Spectrum Technologies LLC and Domino Data Lab.
Wilms moved to Norwalk in 1989; Dathan moved to New Canaan in 2015.
Serrano said that Wilms had a 100 percent attendance record when he was a State Representative and he takes “everything seriously with commitment.”
Wilms called his financial experience “unique among all the 187 legislators,” a “different perspective” that’s needed, and cited his “solid four year voting record in Hartford, really standing up for” Norwalk and New Canaan.
He’s really invested in Norwalk and votes in New Canaan’s interests, he said.
“The state wants to take away New Canaan’s independence and its financial resources. I stand shoulder to shoulder with New Canaan against what Hartford wants to do,” Wilms said.
“I’m going to be working my butt off,” Wilms said. “It’s a whole different environment. But we’re going to continue our aggressive campaign to get the word out and really put our best foot forward.”
Zucaro begins her campaign with the support of the woman she’d replace.
State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143), who has held the post for a decade, said it would be difficult to turn over her seat to someone she doesn’t trust, but, “I trust Patrizia explicitly. She is smart, motivated, clear thinking and an excellent listener, I’ve been very impressed by her work ethic and her genuine interest in the people of our district.”
Zucaro, a Westport attorney, faces Democratic candidate Stephanie Thomas, a Norwalker who leads a non-profit, in the contest, barring an unforeseen primary challenge. It’s a traditionally Republican district, comprised of parts of Wilton and Norwalk, as well as a Westport sliver.
Zuccaro “is someone who thinks for herself and much like the people who live in Norwalk and Westport, who have a wide diversity of opinion on many issues,” Lavielle said. “I am confident that she will consider every issue on its merits in regard for its impact on their constituents. You’re going to find Patricia to be open minded, fiscally responsible, and respectful of their personal choices.”
Former State Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26) also nominated Zucaro, as did former Norwalk Common Council member Shannon O’Toole Giandurco. Westport Second Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker said she’d be delighted to work with Zucaro.
Zucaro has the right stance on all the right issues, including the state’s “precarious fiscal position that’s … made considerably worse through the pandemic, our path to recovery, including a laser focus on local businesses…and protecting local authority over our schools,” Tooker said.
Zucaro said her campaign has already raised the funds needed to qualify for a Citizen’s Election Program grant.
“This is an amazing feat, and I’m extremely grateful for all the support that I have received so far,” Zucaro said.
Thomas, who ran in 2018, has also raised the money needed to qualify for a CEP grant and has filed the necessary paperwork.
“I know that COVID-19 will present new and unique challenges for the election campaigns in here,” Zucaro said. “However, I am confident that we will overcome those difficulties because I have a great group of individuals who are currently committed to this campaign and they are bright, energized and creative…. I will do whatever it takes to win.”