The 26th state Senate District is something of an electoral anomaly in 21st-century Westport: a Republican stronghold.

Since Westport was incorporated into the multi-town 26th in the mid-1960s, every senator from the district has been a member of the Grand Old Party. The seat is now held by Toni Boucher, who is seeking her third term in the state Senate in the Nov. 6 election. She takes on Carolanne Curry, a Democrat and 25-year Westport resident.

Following last year's redistricting, the 26th includes all of Westport, except for a southeastern portion of the town. The district also encompasses Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston and Wilton.

Boucher identifies the state's economy, debt and spending and education as the top issues in her campaign leading up to next month's balloting.

"What seems to be on people's minds are, No. 1, jobs and the economy," Boucher said. "It doesn't matter if you're a woman or a man, the security of their family is the No. 1 priority. In Connecticut, the unemployment rate has jumped up to 9 percent. That's a huge climb, and it impacts everything."

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THE CANDIDATES Toni Boucher, Republican Current position: Senator, 26th state Senate District; director, Commonfund Institute Top issues: Economic growth and related state fiscal policies; education; transportation Other experience: State representative, 143rd District, 1996-2008; member, Wilton Board of Education, 1986-94; original partner and member of San Diego-based communications and design firm in biotech field; co-founded MB Systems, Norwalk-based mainframe software maintenance company; ran own consulting firm, Boucher Marketing Consulting Education: Master of business administration, University of Connecticut Age: 62 Carolanne Curry, Democrat Current position: Alternate member, Westport Planning and Zoning Commission Top issues: Education; property tax relief; cost of care for senior citizens Other experience: Director of welfare, city of Bridgeport, 1992-95; director of welfare, city of New Haven, 1995-98; president and founder of Blue Hills Insurance, life, health and accident insurance brokerage; partner and vice president of Income Protectors Inc., an insurance brokerage for marketing group products Education: High school diploma, Putnam Catholic Academy, Putnam; attended classes at University of Connecticut, St. Joseph's College and Florida Atlantic University Age: 72

Curry highlights education, the cost of care for senior citizens and limited state aid to municipalities and its impact on property taxes as major concerns.

"The education reform bill that was passed this year is an issue of concern to this district," Curry said. "It shortchanges the district because the bill focuses on the 25 or so municipalities that have been underperforming. The school systems in this district are very high-performing entities. They feel that they have been handicapped and they feel some of the components of the bill are not healthy for this district."

Curry, 72, will look to improve on the performance in the 2010 election by Boucher's last challenger, Democrat John Hartwell, who lost to her by a 59-41 percent margin.

Curry's bid for the 26th District seat marks her first run for elected office, but she has extensive public-sector experience. She served as welfare director in Bridgeport from 1992 to 1995, and as welfare director in New Haven from 1995 to 1998.

She currently serves as an alternate member of the Westport Planning and Zoning Commission, but she is campaigning full-time for the Senate seat.

Boucher, 62, is one of the state Legislature's most senior Republicans. A deputy minority leader, she serves as the ranking Senate member of the state General Assembly's Education, Transportation and Higher Education committees. She is also a member of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. Before her election to the state Senate in 2008, for 12 years she represented the 143rd Assembly District, which includes parts of Wilton and Norwalk, in the state House of Representatives. A Wilton resident, Boucher also works as the director of the Commonfund Institute, the educational and research arm of Commonfund, a fund manager for educational, nonprofit and health-care institutions.

During the last General Assembly session, a major education reform bill was passed with support from Democrats and Republicans, including Boucher. The legislation aims, in particular, to improve the prospects of students in the state's lower-income urban school districts.

"In education, it's about giving students a public school choice in their cities," Boucher said. "We should have standards that are not different for poorer students as they are for students in Westport. We need to raise the standards in our inner cities."

While she points to her support for bipartisan initiatives on education and transportation issues, Boucher is not reticent about criticizing Democratic state legislators and Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for their fiscal policies.

"I'd encourage the governor to institute a wage and hiring freeze until we get our financial house in order," she said. "We need to increase our funding of pension liabilities that we have, not to mention filling our rainy-day fund. And we have to do something about the fact that our bond rating is so diminished and reduced, and it's costing us an awful lot."

Curry offers a differing assessment of the state's financial predicament.

Boucher "criticizes the Democrats for this budget deficit, but the budget deficit never started with Gov. Dan Malloy," Curry said. "You go back and look at the (Gov. John) Rowland and (Gov. Jodi) Rell years. Across the country, including the Rowland and Rell years, we were living in some sort of unrealistic monetary heaven. And the piper has come home, and we've had to look at the reality under Malloy."

In a prospective third Senate term, Boucher said she would support legislation designed to drive economic growth in the state. Education and transportation would also rank highly again on her legislative agenda.

"I believe so strongly that there's a direct connection between our tax policy, job growth and the health of our economy in our state," Boucher said.

If elected, Curry said she would support legislation to implement a statewide cap on municipal property tax rates.

"The cap is to send a message to the state that enough is enough," she said. "You've got to either help us out or let us create some other revenue-generating source."

But Curry readily acknowledges the long odds she faces Election Day in a district where Boucher easily carried Westport and its other six towns in 2010.

"I'm under no illusions that I might even win this," Curry added. "What am I saying is that I am going out every single day. I am delivering a message. I am looking with voters at all sides of the issues and there may very well be factors and variables that give me a victory. It isn't primarily the victory that's important. For me, it's the message that's important."

pschott@bcnnew.com; 203-255-4561, ext. 118; twitter.com/paulschott

THE CANDIDATES

Toni Boucher, Republican

Current position: Senator, 26th state Senate District; Director, Commonfund Institute

Top issues: Economic growth and related state fiscal policies; education; transportation

Other experience: State representative, 143rd District, 1996-2008; member, Wilton Board of Education, 1986-94; original partner and member of San Diego-based communications and design firm in biotech field; co-founded MB Systems, Norwalk-based mainframe software maintenance company; ran own consulting firm, Boucher Marketing Consulting

Education: Master of business administration, University of Connecticut

Age: 62

Carolanne Curry, Democrat

Current position: Alternate member, Westport Planning and Zoning Commission

Top issues: Education; property tax relief; cost of care for senior citizens

Other experience: Director of welfare, city of Bridgeport, 1992-95; director of welfare, city of New Haven, 1995-98; president and founder of Blue Hills Insurance, life, health and accident insurance brokerage. partner and vice president of Income Protectors Inc., an insurance brokerage for marketing group products

Education: High school diploma, Putnam Catholic Academy, Putnam; attended classes at University of Connecticut, St. Joseph's College and Florida Atlantic University

Age: 72