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Norwalk Republicans reveal tentative ticket for fall election

Republican District 25 State Senate hopeful Elisavet “Ellie” Kousidis talks to Norwalk Republicans on Monday, left; incumbent State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) holds a Facebook town hall last week, right.

The 2020 election is scheduled for Nov. 3.

NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk Republicans unveiled a female-heavy slate of Statehouse candidates Monday, including a challenger for State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25).

Elisavet “Ellie” Kousidis, a Norwalk resident who teaches for Stamford Public Schools, said she believes in local control of education and wants to improve the business climate in Connecticut. She called Duff a “horrible person” and a “terrible leader.”

Republicans, in their virtual meeting, also heard from Westport resident Patrizia Zucaro, who has State Rep. Gail Lavielle’s blessing to take the 143rd District seat Lavielle has held for nearly 10 years. Former City Clerk Ellen Wink announced that she’s seeking to unseat State Rep. Chris Perone (D-137) and Patrick Murphy stepped up to take on State Rep. Travis Simms (D-140).

Video by Harold Cobin at end of story

Fred Wilms promised to “work harder than I ever have” to unseat State Rep. Lucy Dathan (D-142) and regain the seat he lost in 2018 after serving for two terms. And State Rep. Terri Wood (R-141) said she feels “tremendous fire in the belly to help turn the state around,” in seeking reelection to the seat she’s held since 2009.

Republicans also heard from three contenders for the Fourth Congressional District endorsement. Two emphasized that it’s important to unseat U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Greenwich) to prevent him from running for U.S. Senate in two years when U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) retires.

And Republican Registrar Karen Doyle Lyons made a brief speech, with no apparent opponent to her reelection.

Two of the female newcomers said they have been unaffiliated voters who have just become Republican.

Norwalk Republican Town Committee Chairman Carl Dickens closed the evening by saying, “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m energized. I’m excited about the slate again, as we heard from this evening. I think we’ve got energetic people. We’ve certainly got intelligent people. They’ve got ideas and it’s going to be fun, I think we’re gonna have some good times from now until Election Day, and then even better times after that.”

 

 

Kousidis for State Senate

Kousidis described herself as an award-winning educator who won $500,000 in grant funding to transform a media center into a state-of-the-art Learning Commons.

“One of the things that I really believe in strongly is local control at our schools, local control period,” she said. “I am an urban educator and I know the impact that bringing resources locally has on a school because I’ve seen it and I’ve done it, I have the experience.”

Regionalization doesn’t help children, she said.

Plus, “My husband is a small business owner, and we know firsthand the impact of the tax policies of Connecticut. … It’s a toxic environment for small businesses.”

President Donald Trump’s tax policy revision allowed her husband to hire a second engineer for his business, she said.

“My husband and I are both first-generation American citizens. So, you know, we have the value of hard work and just like how to be self-made,” Kousidis said, explaining that at 42 years of age she has switched from being unaffiliated to registering as a Republican for the first time because she believes in freedom, liberty and small government.

“I am running against Bob Duff, because he is, quite frankly, a horrible human being and a terrible leader,” she said. “Again, as a small business owner, I could talk to you about his tax policies and how he’s basically carried water for the last two governors and has voted for every single tax increase that we’ve seen in the state of Connecticut, and as the Senate Majority Leader that pretty much makes him directly responsible for the mass exodus that we’re seeing in the state of Connecticut.”

Duff did not reply to a NancyOnNorwalk email giving him the chance to respond to Kousidis’ candidacy.

“I’ll tell you in the last few days, the things that I’ve seen and heard from him in the middle of a crisis are absolutely not anything that you would expect of a leader. You know, it’s it’s shameful, quite frankly,” Kousidis said, citing a Facebook town hall in which Duff “was telling this audience of a few that he has been working with the Department of Public Health, and the Norwalk Police Department to organize random checks into the small businesses to make sure that they are following orders” for social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Duff provided phone numbers for police and “actually encouraged neighbors to call the police on each other,” she said. “I think that’s reprehensible.”

She filed papers on March 30 and has not yet registered fund-raising activity.

 

Zucaro vs. Thomas?

Zucaro said she grew up in Westport, graduated from the University of Connecticut and then went into real estate development. A decade later, she went to Pace University to get a law degree while working full-time, graduating in 2012 and being admitted to both in New York and Connecticut bar associations.

“I have defended my clients in a variety of situations. I’m not afraid of anyone and I will do everything possible to protect Norwalk and this district,” she said.

She’s been unaffiliated but she’s tired of Democrats running the State House and she’s committed to Republican values, she said.

She listed issues that motivate her “One, the need to reduce state taxes and spending dramatically. Two, paying off the massive unfunded liabilities related to State retirement obligations and breaking the stronghold the unions have over our State and its budget. Three, keeping and attracting more business in Connecticut. We must create an environment where businesses can thrive and they want to stay here for urgent need to improve our transportation infrastructure. I do not support certain new outside revenue sources like tolls. We haven’t controlled our spending.”

“Norwalk needs more money for the state for schools, and we need answers about why it’s not happening. There’s ECS (educational cost sharing formula) and there is the recent flood of the ELL (English Language Learner) students. And I support school construction funds for elementary and middle schools that need it,” she said.

“I am determined to succeed. I’m running for the only open seat on the ballot in Norwalk. It is a seat that we can and should win,” Zucaro said.

Zucaro would be likely to face Democratic candidate Stephanie Thomas should she win the Republican endorsement. Thomas, a Norwalk resident, ran against Lavielle in 2018 and won 48.5 percent of the vote in an election that saw a Democratic landslide.

Thomas was not available for comment.

Lavielle told Norwalk Republicans that her seat is the only open seat in Norwalk, Wilton and Westport. District 143 has voters in all three towns.

“It is something we should win, if we have a good candidate, and we do,” Lavielle said.

Lavielle said she’s not running for reelection because, “I basically want my life back.”

“I want you to know that I am fully, fully, fully behind Patricia. I think she’s going to do a wonderful job,” Lavielle said.

 

Wink versus Perone

“We need new blood. My opponent is running for the ninth term. And nobody knows who he is,” Wink said, of Perone.

Wink said she’s run her own business for 21 years, within a family business for 42 years.

“I know what too many regulations do to business. They go out of business. Let’s change this,” Wink said.

“When my daughters were finished with college, I encouraged them to not return to the area that there were no jobs. It broke my heart. This is the state that I love,” said Wink, a Republican for decades.

Perone assumed office in 2005.

“The citizens and state of Connecticut have always been my main priority throughout my tenure in the legislature,” Perone said in an email. “However COVID – 19 presents us with immense and unique challenges which are testing us in the present and will require our complete attention in the months ahead. It will require a lot of work to put testing protocols into place, to ensure we have hospital capacity needed to save lives while healing our community and to begin the process of rebuilding our state’s economy which has been severely impacted by COVID-19. Returning Connecticut to where it was before the crisis hit while the making improvements necessary to put Connecticut on a solid economic footing will be my focus going forward.”

Wink said she’s run for the seat before, “losing in the tsunami of 2008. I’m not losing again.”

 

Wilms versus Dathan

Wilms announced in January that he’s running for his old seat. On Monday, he reviewed his history as a Webster Bank senior vice president and former Norwalk Board of Estimate and Taxation chairman, a former Common Council member and a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals. It was a total 15 years in Norwalk city government, he said.

“I was privileged to hold this seat for for two terms, four years, from 2015 to 2019,” he said, listing his leadership role in putting together a Republican budget that was passed in 2017.

“Blue state Connecticut passed a Republican budget back in 2017,” he said. “I was proud to be a part of that.”

His first goal when he was first elected was to reform ECS, he recalled. In years one and two, it went no where but in year three, “I actually teamed up with (Democratic then-District 140 State Rep.) Bruce Morris,” Wilms said. “And we had both sides of the aisle. And in that year, in a Republican budget, we got first the ECS reform that moved the formula in favor of Norwalk. First time in decades. And so I was very, very proud of that and I intend to continue the fight.”

The 2017 legislative budget process was historic, as it progressed into Oct. and then-Gov. Dan Malloy ran the state via executive order for 123 days. Ballotpedia cites disagreements between Malloy and the General Assembly, disagreements among members of the Democratic caucus, and disagreements between Democratic and Republican legislators as reasons.

The State House was also being pressured by a court decision: in September 2016, Judge Thomas Moushawker ordered Connecticut to revise its educational funding system, after hearing arguments from both sides in the lawsuit filed by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Educational Funding (CCJEF) against the State.

The legislature passed a Republican budget in September 2017 and it was subsequently vetoed by Malloy. The resultant 2017-19 budget was bipartisan.

Duff described the ECS changes in January 2018.

“This time, a lot of the stars aligned,” he said. “I was in the position I am in (as Senate Majority Leader) to try to help force it through, the best that I could. You had the CCJEF vs. Rell court case at the same time … and I think you had a number of people who said, ‘You know, the time is right to finally get this thing done. We are tired of having a political formula … and by the way, we are doing all of this in one of the toughest budget times.’”

Wilms on Monday also said he’d taken a leading role in his last year in stabilizing the Transportation Fund.

“I appreciate all of your support,” Wilms said. “I intend to work my butt off. I’m going to knock on lots and lots and lots of doors to the extent that the virus situation allows for it. But I’m certainly going to work harder than I ever have before because winning this election, wining this seat back, so critical and so important to us. We need someone who’s going to represent for Norwalk and stand up for our interests.”

13 comments

Sue Haynie April 21, 2020 at 6:16 am

This is good news, exciting slate of motivated candidates and new blood. Love it.

Blumenthal is retiring in 2 years, also great news.

Ct. V April 21, 2020 at 8:05 am

I will ask any of the people running who talk about shrinking state spending: Please give concrete examples of what you would cut and what that would save in taxes. Especially if like Ms. Zucaro you want to pay off the unfunded pension liabilities and improve the transportation infrastructure at the same time.

The CT Democrats in power need an opposition party that has a realistic plan for what they want Connecticut to look like. Platitudes about decreased taxes and increased spending on things you like all paid for by waste that you won’t specifically call out and haven’t yet found but you know is there is not a reasonable plan.

Adam Blank April 21, 2020 at 8:13 am

I don’t know Ms. Kousidis but I can’t imagine there will be any appetite in Norwalk for an anti-vaxxer this fall.

Bryan Meek April 21, 2020 at 8:30 am

I can’t believe how far Bob Duff has gone off the deep end. Asking people to trade their first amendment rights for life saving healthcare? Can it get any lower?

Andrew M April 21, 2020 at 8:34 am

As a former Norwalk/Connecticut resident and RTC member, I just dont see how Bob Duff could lose, especially with all the hard work he has been doing for my friends and family back home. As for Chris Perone, thats a different story. I’m glad to see my friend Ellen running. I know that she has the heart and passion to do well for the resident of that district. Anyone who knows Ellen knows how wonderful she is.

Babar Sheikh April 21, 2020 at 9:27 am

Easiest way to end all bureaucracy in healthcare is to have single payer healthcare or universal healthcare or as the republicans like to call it socialized medicine. Too much time is spent doing insurance or other mandated busy work. It would be funny how the system works if it wasn’t so tragic.

Red headed movie star April 21, 2020 at 9:47 am

Ellie Kousides, I have a problem with your name calling of Bob Duff or any representative.no matter how you perceive them..Let’s be professional there are many other words you can use…there is enough stress right now and I’m sick of politicians name calling. I used to vote for Bob Duff but am not happy with his politics in the past 2 elections…Present the facts in an articulate manner.

Patrick Cooper April 21, 2020 at 1:17 pm

Perhaps with new party leadership, there will be a different – more effective approach. The worst kept secret in CT politics is – just super-glue the letter D on your sweater and even the dog catcher can be a State Senator. Those local “R’s” who push for a full on embrace of Trump-ism still haven’t learned a simple yet hallowed political truth: you need to win elections before you get to set policy.

Duff has been a vulnerable candidate for the past 3 terms – but his only real competition would have been a far greater radical progressive who espoused chopping up millionaires to feed the poor. No – just as we see locally – the D party have a very tight lock on “seniority” – so you wait your turn. Unless your already groomed and can demonstrate you’re a proven loyalist.

Duff has delivered zero to the city. Worse – he meddles in local issues (“Fix it First”, now “the Bob Duff Regional High School vanity project” paid for by the state/ not the state but local tax suckers). ECS funding. Tax policies that hurt small and large businesses alike. Sanctuary city proclamations without financial assistance to address the imported poverty. Dirty tricks in local elections. On and on….

So listen up candidates: this is about policy. Local – policy. Forget Washington. And please – stop personally attacking the candidate – rather, attack the policy and the record. A blind one legged dog could hit the bullseye on that.

Messaging has to be – this is the issue/problem, and this is the plan. What is it? You can’t appeal simply to tribalism – that is a loser in this state. No – if you want voters to support your candidate – you need a candidate that has a plan – one that put’s CT taxpayers first. One that lead’s this state forward, and up. One that leads to economic growth, and prosperity beyond the 1%.

At the very least – a candidate who can effectively deliver that message can expose those currently in office as “emperor’s without clothes”. These politicians all possess 99th percentile in survival skills. They will change course in a split second if they need to in order to win. Principles are easily sacrificed in lieu of maintaining a seat at the pig trough.

I for one want to hear another approach – another pathway – because the one we are on sure isn’t working for CT. That CT is not completely failing cannot be argued with facts – only with D-party ideology. Look – if US states mimicked the NFL – CT would be the Cleveland Browns. We can do better.

Red headed movie star April 21, 2020 at 5:11 pm

Adam Blank pls ready Sharyl Attkisson’s post for today, Tuesday, April 21- “Robert F Kennedy Jr. Fact Checks CNN’s Vaccine Information” and watch the Mike Wallace video from 30 years ago. I am not an anti vaxer but I believe in checking the facts. Thank you.

Curious Voter April 22, 2020 at 12:40 pm

Here we go again some Republicans, Mr. Dickens please tell your members to stop, take charge!
“She called Duff a “horrible person” and a “terrible leader.” This divisive, hateful talk isn’t what we need from our elected officials during this difficult time in OUR country. No need for personal attacks, a horrible person definitely sits in the Oval Office let’s not forget.
Stick with communicating the issues to us, why is he a terrible leader? Let’s start there.

Al Bore April 22, 2020 at 2:57 pm

Curious voter, practice what you preach or don’t preach at all. I agree it is horrible that you called our president a horrible leader during this difficult time. Thank your lucky stars that you and your family have been speared this horrible virus. No person is horrible, you hay not like their politics that is fine but the person is not horrible. And likewise for Elisavet “Ellie” Kousidis. Thanks.

JOHN C ROMANO April 22, 2020 at 4:45 pm

Curious voter, I am curious. It is OK for you to say there is a horrible person in the White house (Oval office) But not for others to refer to Duff as being horrible. Bob has been in Hartford for a very long time. He is great at marketing himself (he sells and Markets Real Estate, so he has a clue)It is OK for him to have a pac and be a “D” supporter of candidates all over the state, it is OK for him to make back room deals and other towns windfall and Norwalk is always on the short end of the stick.

I have heard for many years, BOB DUFF is a great guy. I also thought so at one time. But he has over the years lost credibility based on his actions and allegiance to the party leaders who have raped, robed and pillaged Ct for to long. Time for a change.

Tysen Canevari April 22, 2020 at 9:48 pm

Way to stick your foot in your mouth Miss Ellie. The republican party gets better and better all the time in Norwalk. First, they endorse Darnell Crosland and now this?. You are entitled to your opinion but to say Bob is a horrible person is inacurate. He and I may disagree sometimes but thats America. He is a good family and community person. Thats not a great way to start off a campaign. Anti Vaccine too? Great postion to take during this pandemic. Guess Bob wwill coast to victory this year. LOL

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