Political newcomer Patrizia Zucaro, a Westport attorney who only recently became a registered Republican, officially announced her candidacy for state representative for the 143rd district, which includes Wilton, Westport, and Norwalk. She made the announcement at a Zoom press conference on Tuesday morning, April 28.
Zucaro is running for the seat that has been held by Wilton resident Gail Lavielle for the last 10 years. Lavielle, who announced in March that she would not be seeking reelection, played host at the announcement, giving her enthusiastic endorsement to Zucaro.
Several other prominent Republican officials took part in the call, including Republican State House Minority Leader Themis Klarides (R-114); State Rep. Tom O’Dea (R-125), who also represents Wilton as well as New Canaan; State Rep. Terrie Wood (R-141), who represents Norwalk and Darien; Wilton Republican Town Committee chair Christopher Lineberger; and RTC chairs Carl Dickens of Norwalk and Joe Sledge of Westport.
Perhaps acknowledging that the political makeup of Wilton has changed in the 10 years since Lavielle was first elected, many of the officials on the call emphasized the need to elect someone who will be apolitical while focused on “fixing Connecticut.”
“Evidenced by this kind of call that we have to do, we know we’re in very uncertain and very difficult times in this state. It will make it even more difficult to deal with the very difficult times we were already in the state, with multibillion-dollar deficits every year. This drives home why electing people to fix this problem, it is so important that we need somebody who’s first and foremost concern is fixing Connecticut without being political,” Klarides said to start her introduction.
Lavielle also referenced Zucaro’s independence.
“She doesn’t come to this role with a lot of ideological preconceptions and an attitude that she knows everything. She’s not a very political person. She was unaffiliated for a long time before she registered as a Republican. She is someone who thinks for herself and I’m very confident that she will consider every issue on its merits as they come up with due regard for its impact on her constituents,” who, Lavielle said, “will find Patricia to be open-minded, fiscally responsible, and respectful of their personal choices.”
Klarides pointed to Zucaro’s background as an attorney who owns her own firm, a woman, a first-generation American, and a lifelong Westport resident as to why she’d serve the district well.
“An independent, young woman who understands the needs of her day and the small business needs and the struggles people go through day in and day out is exactly what we need as a representative of Connecticut and the representative of your district,” Klarides said, adding that Zucaro has “many ties to Norwalk and understands the needs of small towns like Wilton.”
Zucaro is new to the GOP, only registering as a Republican in March after being unaffiliated for many years.
“I recently have become a Republican, but it’s been a long time coming. I’ve always believed it was important to focus on the issues and it’s been in my nature to research all the facts before making a decision. I decided to join the Republican party because the past several years I realized that my positions are more aligned with Republican values and I just felt more comfortable, with Republican views,” Zucaro said.
Among the top issues she said need attention, and where Republicans have been “fighting for decades” to change are the need to support small businesses, to improve transportation, and address Connecticut’s structural fiscal weaknesses, high taxes and debt, runaway spending, and massive unfunded retirement obligations.”
The COVID-19 crisis has only intensified her motivation to run, she explained–again, emphasizing her interest in “putting politics aside.”
“Although we have yet to see the total impact of COVID 19, it is true that Connecticut’s fiscal and economic vulnerability will make it harder to build back our jobs, public health, and economy. This will shape how we make decisions in Hartford. This is a time when we need leaders who will be flexible and understand the complexity of COVID; leaders who will put politics aside and address our health and safety concerns with fairness and transparency. This is a moment when Connecticut needs nonpartisan leadership that will be truthful, open-minded, and creative,” Zucaro said.
She made a point to distance herself from national Republican politics.
“I will work closely with the other side of the aisle. This race is about Norwalk, Westport and Wilton. I am not running on a national platform and national platforms have nothing to do with my campaign. My focus is Norwalk, Westport in Wilton, and what is right for the people who live here. They’re my boss and their needs and their concerns are what matters to me. I will work very hard to further their interests and maintain a strong voice in Hartford,” she said.
What About Wilton?
Lavielle said the district is “extremely fortunate” that Zucaro stepped forward to run for the seat, giving her a full endorsement.
“Patrizia is smart, motivated, clear thinking, and a very good listener. I’ve been very impressed by her attention to detail, her genuine interest in the people of our district, and her energy. She’s a very hard worker,” Lavielle said.
“I’ve represented this district for 10 years and it’s a place that has become very dear to me, so I’m not about to leave it in the hands of somebody I don’t trust. Patricia has my full and enthusiastic support to be its next representative going forward,” she added.
The 2020 election will put an end to more than a decade of district representation by a Wilton resident. Neither candidate–Zucaro from Westport and the Democratic candidate, Norwalk’s Stephanie Thomas–live in Wilton.
Does Zucaro think she can represent Wilton as well as someone from the town?
“Sure. I think that I can address the concerns of Wilton… The district is comprised of Wilton largely, so I know that Wilton is a big component of this district, and Wilton is very important to me. I also think that being from Westport, I can understand a lot of the concerns that Wilton has. Obviously Wilton is unique, but I have the strong background from Westport that meets the needs of Wilton and I [understand] the issues and I’m committed to Wilton. I’m committed that they have a voice in Hartford,” she said, later adding, “Wilton will be a top priority for me, so I just want to make that clear, that Wilton will be a top priority.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Following the press event, GMW emailed Zucaro a question which she answered in a reply:
GMW: You haven’t served in statewide politics–or any elected position. Why do you think you’re qualified to be elected by Wilton voters?
Zucaro: I understand that my role in this seat is to be a strong voice for Wilton. I absolutely intend to treat Wilton as though I lived there, as though it were my own town. I do not think I will have any difficultly in understanding and advocating for Wilton’s needs. Wilton and Westport have very similar issues. They are both small. They are both affluent. They both place a high priority on their schools and preserving the character of the town. Zoning laws, including 8-30g, is a key issue. And finally, the residents of both towns are highly vested in their communities and I know that Wilton, like Westport, will want me to help ensure that the state will not unduly interfere with how the town is run.
One of the things that I have learned more recently about Wilton is that it is a community with a strong culture of volunteering. I have recently had the opportunity to volunteer with Warrior Helpers, calling senior citizens, and it has been such an amazing experience. The people I have spoken with are so incredibly nice and wonderful and in many cases I’ve felt like I’ve known some of these folks for years. I’ll be spending more and more time doing things just like this and after a while, I may have even forgotten that I don’t live in Wilton!
The Wilton Republican Town Committee chair, Chris Lineberger–himself new to the ranks of local Wilton political leadership–said the Wilton GOP is firmly behind Zucaro as well.
“She’s got a lot of good ideas. She’s got the right background for this and I think she’ll actually serve the town of Wilton very well. I know she’s working with Gail a lot, so there’s a lot of knowledge that’s getting passed on firsthand that otherwise probably wouldn’t. I think that’s great. And she’s got our full support, so I’m happy to help in any way we can,” he said.
A graduate of Staples and UCONN, Zucaro started her professional career in real estate development, eventually attending Pace Law school while working full-time.
“I have spent a significant number of years working on the development of my career and now I would like to give back to my community. Supporting my community is very important,” Zucaro said.
She pointed to her background as an attorney to explain what kind of legislator she would be.
“I know Connecticut statutes and how the legislature works. Being an attorney has taught me to be an excellent listener and an even stronger advocate. I’m very open and receptive to people’s opinions, concerns, and ideas because I have to be. Lastly, I have defended my clients in a variety of difficult situations. I am not afraid of anyone and I will stand up for the people of the 143rd district,” she said.
Issues “Specific to the 143rd”
Zucaro articulated her position on issues she felt would be important to district voters, and answered questions from the press on others.
The first one she raised was education.
“I oppose any effort to cut school funding midyear or to push the cost of teacher’s pension contributions down to the towns. Our school districts need to retain their autonomy and I absolutely oppose mandated regionalization of our schools,” she said.
She added that Norwalk “needs more ECS funding from the state and we need answers about why it’s not happening,” adding that, “The question of funding education for the growing number of ELL students requires attention from the state.”
Zucaro raised 8-30g, the affordable housing issue, as a serious one for Wilton and Westport.
“I support reforming this statute. Zoning objectives are local in nature and each municipality should retain authority over zoning decisions,” she said, adding that she does think reform is achievable.
“Anything’s possible and if we sit down and talk about it, we’ll be able to resolve the issues that are underlying in that statute,” including what she said was an unobtainable number of units required by the state. “The designation is something that a town could never, ever obtain. And so we need to work on balancing the needs because it’s on both sides. It’s important and we need to figure a way that will address all the concerns that everybody has.”
Referring to the Walk Bridge in Norwalk, Zucaro said, “I support an approach to transportation infrastructure that takes into consideration the opinions and concerns of our cities and towns so that costs and disruption to our community is minimized.”
Zucaro was asked how she would specifically help small businesses.
“I don’t have a specific how I’m going to help small businesses, but I think it’s important that we cut some of the red tape that’s preventing small businesses to thrive. We have to look at other states to see how they’re bringing businesses back to Connecticut. For years we’ve been dealing with a lot of people leaving the state because of the small business situation and so I will look at every possible avenue in order to resolve what is going on in Connecticut. I think it’s very important,” she said.
She was also asked about her position on gun legislation.
“We’ve had some significant gun legislation in recent years and the bills put forth strengthened our background checks, improved school security, and mental health. I would support additional regulation that would screen mental health issues; I think that honing down on that issue is important and we should see a little bit more legislation to that,” she said, adding, “I do support the second amendment, but I also think that at the same time we need to have legislation that really makes it safe for us in our community.”
She later emailed an additional statement. “I fully support the gun legislation that has been passed in recent years, this includes SB 1160, the bans on bump stocks and ghost guns, and the bill concerning temporary restraining orders. I will oppose any attempt to repeal or loosen gun restrictions in any of these bills,” she wrote.