Meet Republican Candidate for State Rep in the 149th District, Tina Courpas, Political Newcomer

Republican Tina Courpas is running for State Representative in the 149th district. A first-time candidate, Courpas said she filed her candidacy back in February, which was early, and has been approved by the state’s Citizens Election Program, a voluntary program that provides full public financing to qualified candidates and is designed to improve the electoral process.

Courpas shared her background and reasons for entering the race for the 149th district.

Having moved to Glenville 20 years ago, Courpas said Greenwich had been a great place to raise her four children, and that she wanted to run for office out of concerns for the town’s future.

“I’m concerned that if we take things for granted we will lose what makes Greenwich great,” she said. “And because I am tired of divisive extreme politics and lack of common sense solutions in government.”

Tina Courpas at Greenwich Library. June 28, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Previously, Courpas had a career on Wall Street as a corporate lawyer and investment banker.

“I believe that highly competitive environment prepared me for this environment,” she said. “My years in the finance world will help me add value on the fiscal issues of our state, which I think are significant.”

After her years on Wall Street, Courpas went on to run two non-profit organizations as executive director. The first was the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women in Connecticut which was established by the State Legislature in 1973. The commission is bipartisan in their advocacy for legislation for Connecticut’s women and girls.

“People have told me it is unusual for a Republican to be a women’s advocate, but for me it’s not. I believe in the rights and freedoms of all women and men.”

Courpas described running a non-profit as being a steward of donor money.

“It’s not your money. And I will take the same attitude as a legislator where you’re tasked with the awesome responsibility of deploying taxpayer dollars.”

The second and most recent non-profit where Courpas served as executive director was The Hellenic Initiative which she described as a philanthropic organization that raises money from Greek diaspora around the world to invest in Greece’s economic recovery.

Courpas, a first generation Greek American, said both her parents immigrated to the US with nothing.

“Through hard work, they lived the American dream,” she said, adding that her father was an OB-GYN and her mother a pediatrician.

“I deeply care about my Greek heritage and was so happy to be able to support charities in Greece through my work at the Hellenic Initiative,” she said.

As for her foray into politics, Courpas said she had always wanted to engage in the political arena.

“And for all its current dysfunction, I still believe in our American democracy, and that government is the best way to have lasting change and improve people’s lives,” she said.

Courpas said her campaign will focus on three topics.

Local Control of Zoning

Courpas said that while she believes Greenwich does need to increase its affordable housing stock, the question for her is how.

Commenting on the longtime state affordable housing statute that has been utilized recently by developers to bypass local zoning, Courpas said, “8-30g has not been effective for the 35 years its been on the books. And it has had many negative unintended consequences. In some cases it disregards historical review – allowing tearing down historic buildings we will never get back.”

“It also in some cases bypasses environmental review, which is problematic particularly with the shoreline we have in town and also takes decisions which are more effectively and democratically made by local officials and removes them to Hartford.”

Courpas said as state legislator her job would be to make sure 8-30g does not expand into bills such as the Transit Oriented Development bill.

As has been suggested by other Republicans including State Senator Fazio, Courpas believes that private school employee housing, hospital housing and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) should count toward the 10% requirement of 8-30g.

CT State Statute 8-30g, enacted in 1989, sets a goal that 10% of each municipality’s housing stock qualify as “affordable” housing per a state formula based on state or area median income. Until the 10% target is met, developers may propose projects that are not subject to local zoning regulations. The bar for denial by a local Planning & Zoning board is high. An 8-30g project can be denied only on very narrow grounds – i.e., if it presents health, safety or other concerns that exceed a town’s need for affordable housing. 

Courpas said she believed the town’s best avenue for expanding affordable housing was through Greenwich Communities (formerly the Housing Authority), where 100% of residential units built count toward the 10% requirement.

Connecticut’s Economy

Courpas said she planned to visit 50 local businesses in the 149th district before the election to explore “ways to cut red tape and impediments to growth.”

She said an important priority was to keep taxes low for Connecticut’s citizens.

“I am a fiscal conservative and believe that the legislature took a strong stance in 2017 to put the state on the road to fiscal recovery – and it worked,” she said. “In January we all benefited from the largest tax cut in state history, but in May the legislature overspent in the current budget and violated the fiscal guardrails, just when our recovery was beginning to work – I disagree with this vote.”

Courpas said it was also critical to find ways to make Connecticut a place where businesses want to operate.

She said according to he Yankee Institute, Connecticut ranked 47 out of 50 states for its overall business climate in every year since 2014.

Public Safety

Courpas said Greenwich and Stamford residents were fortunate to have excellent police forces, but that the legislature had impaired their ability to do their jobs.

“The police accountability bill of 2020 removed car theft as a juvenile offense,” she said, adding that Greenwich Police attributed the rise in car thefts in Greenwich and Stamford directly to that change.

“The legislature has also limited consent searches and recently passed a bill which prevented police form pulling someone over even if they were smoking cannabis while driving a car,” Courpas added. “These policies do not make sense to me or to most voters I speak to. This has to be changed.”

Reproductive Rights

“I support a woman’s right to choose in Connecticut and will fight to uphold Connecticut’s current law,” Courpas said. “I am a pro-choice candidate.”

Courpas said she also supported providing as much access to contraception as possible in Connecticut.

As for abortion, she described it as a wrenching personal decision for women.

“Abortion should be safe, accessible and rare,” Courpas said.

National Elections

Noting the Trump-Biden debate had taken place the night prior to her interview with GFP, Courpas said she subscribed to Ronald Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”

“I will never do that,” she said.

“I am not commenting on the national race in this election for state representative. The job voters are interviewing me for is that of a state legislator. My goal in this campaign is to bring people together to solve the issues that face us at a state level.”

Ending on a positive note Courpas said, “I am pumped up about this. I’ve been wanting to run for office my entire life.”

Editor’s note: GFP is limiting profiles to first-time candidates – those who have not previously been elected or appointed to local government. Previously, we interviewed State Senate candidate for the 36th district, Nick Simmons, a first-time candidate.