Lawmaker: Powerful Special Interests Played Role in Defeat; Opponent Says She Won on Shoe-Leather
State Rep. Vickie Nardello of Prospect, who lost her re-election bid, said Wednesday that she had a big target on her back from both the Republican Party and special interest groups.
As an 18-year incumbent and co-chairwoman of the Energy and Technology Committee, Nardello said “that when you take on strong corporate interests, you make enemies.”
Nardello has been a proponent of renewable energy fought hard to regulate the siting of wind turbines in Connecticut after BNE Energy proposed erecting them in Prospect and Colebrook.
The Republican who defeated Nardello is Lezlye Zupkus, the wife of Gregory Zupkus, president and CEO of BNE Energy.
But, according to Zupkus, the wind project wasn’t even an issue in the race.
“Jobs, taxes, the early release program, and death penalty” were the issues voters cared about, Zupkus said Wednesday.
“People are overtaxed and she voted for every single one,” Zupkus said of Nardello and the second largest tax increase in the state’s history that she helped pass two years ago in an effort to balance the state budget.
But Nardello said she believes the spending by outside groups like Voters for Good Government helped contribute to her defeat.
While both candidates took advantage of the state’s public campaign financing program, Voters for Good Government did an ad buy in opposition to Nardello and three others, including state Sens. Steve Cassano of Manchester, Andrew Maynard of Stonington, and Ed Meyer of Branford. Nardello was the only one of the four candidates to lose her seat Tuesday.
“It also didn’t help that I refused to go negative,” Nardello said. “I could not live with myself if I had.”
She said she did do a mail drop to set the record straight on the misinformation being conveyed, but she never went negative.
But it was other votes Nardello made over the past two years that may have cost her the election.
Zupkus said Nardello’s vote in favor of the inmate early release program — allowing convicted felons to earn credit for programs that could help them get out prison earlier — was a real issue in the district.
“We need to keep families safe,” Zupkus said.
One resident Zupkus spoke to while knocking on more than 5,000 doors opposed the death penalty even though they had a family member who was murdered. That same resident also opposed the early release credits, according to Zupkus.
“It reaches far beyond Cheshire,” Zupkus said.
Other voters told Zupkus they could no longer afford to live in Connecticut and told her that as soon as the grandkids go off to college, they’re moving.
“This is the worst state to retire in and the worst state to do business in,” Zupkus said.
She dismissed the notion that the wind project had anything to do with the race.
“Save Prospect,” the group seeking to stop BNE Energy from erecting its wind turbines, was 150 percent behind Nardello, Zupkus said.
Nardello countered that Zupkus can’t go around claiming she wants to cut state spending and taxes while her husband also is seeking state subsidies to sell power from his wind project.
But Zupkus said the election results had nothing to do with special interests and felt that Nardello’s comment was insulting to the voters.
“We worked so hard to win this race,” Zupkus said.
She said that when she knocked on doors and asked voters what they thought was important, they seemed relieved someone took the time to listen.
“Voters are not special-interest people,” she added.
The district Zupkus will represent also includes parts of Cheshire and Bethany.