HARTFORD —— After three failed bids for elective office in the last four years, Democrat Edwin Vargas said he feels good about his chances this time on Nov. 6.
Vargas beat embattled state Rep. Hector Robles, a two-term incumbent, in the Aug. 14 primary for the 6th House District seat, and said he is poised to take on a leadership role should he win election.
Robles, a former Hartford police officer, was charged in March 2011 with two counts of first-degree larceny for allegedly double-dipping on overtime and bilking the city out of $10,652. His case is pending at Hartford Superior Court.
"Sometimes you just have to be persistent," said Vargas, a retired Hartford schoolteacher. "You have to know how to accept loss and be gracious about it. I just kept going."
Attending community meetings and connecting with people on the streets during the last four years has paid off, he said.
"Even if you lose, people see you knocking on doors out there; they realize you're not a fly-by-night kind of person," said Vargas, 63. "They see that you're sincere."
Vargas challenged state Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, twice for his seat — once in 2008 and again in 2010 — but lost. He also ran unsuccessfully against Mayor Pedro Segarra in 2011 for the city's top job.
Despite the setbacks, Vargas said he's remained active in the community, participating in neighborhood revitalization groups and serving on the city's planning and zoning commission.
Since he announced his intention to run for state representative, Vargas said, he's been going door-to-door in the district, raising money and attending public events.
"I feel very, very good about the campaign we're running," he said. "We're trying to work on a unified strategy with all of the Democratic campaigns."
Vargas' challenger, Republican Michael Lupo, has taken a different approach.
Lupo said he hasn't tried to raise money for his campaign because "people are struggling." And he hasn't knocked on doors, he said, because his two jobs absorb much of his time.
But he has a perspective that he said other political candidates don't: Lupo has lost his job twice in the last four years.
"I'm not your stereotypical Republican from Fairfield County," Lupo said. "I know what people are going through. I'm just scratching out a living like everyone else."
Lupo, 56, a former member of the city's board of education and a member of the Republican Town Committee, now works two jobs — running a private consulting business and working part-time at Home Depot — to pay his bills.
If elected, Lupo said he would work to support small businesses in the city, possibly through tax breaks, and focus on reducing government spending.
"I'm hoping that this time people will really consider somebody who has a different way of looking at things and bringing solutions to the district," he said.
Vargas said he's dedicated to bringing jobs to the district, improving public safety and attracting new development. He said he also plans to support small businesses.
"If you're going to represent a community, you have to have your finger on the pulse of it," Vargas said. "We need a strong voice at the Capitol."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at