Connecticut's economy is still spinning its wheels. Unemployment has hit 9 percent as the state continues to shed jobs, and fresh reports paint Connecticut as among the nation's most hostile to business.

At the same time, the fiscal condition of the state itself is growing ever more sour.

It is clear something has to change in Hartford. But should it be attitudes or people -- or both? Westport voters have tough choices to make.

In the 136th House District, incumbent Democrat Jonathan Steinberg is challenged by Republican Steve Rubin. Both men have long records of service to Westport -- both in government and in community organizations. Both served together in the RTM, and they continue to serve the community in cultural, social and athletic organizations.

Rubin has sounded themes of fiscal conservatism, calling for cuts in spending and labeling Steinberg as part of a Democratic-majority power base in Hartford that launched the state on its current downward spiral.

Steinberg has distanmced himself from the Democratic leadership, saying he is an independent voice and stressing advances he has made in energy and the environment.

There is little doubt that both men love their town, and their dedication to it is unquestioned.

Given the complexities of issues challenging the state, however, we feel Steinberg's analytical skills and his financial training -- he has an MBA -- give him an advantage in assessing the tough policy and fiscal decisions that lie ahead. As a freshman legislator, he became a leader in energy and environment and would be even more effective in a second term.

The west portion of Westport this year is in another House district -- the 143rd -- along with Wilton and part of Norwalk. The House race there is between two Wilton residents, Republican incumbent Gail Lavielle and Wilton Selectman Ted Hoffstatter, a Democrat.

Lavielle, a former business executive, has been endorsed by several business and environmental groups. Hoffstatter, a teacher, has been endorsed by the Connecticut Education Association and the Sierra Club. As a selectman, he clearly understands budgets, services and taxation.

Like their Westport counterparts, the two Wilton officials have records of public-sector service and deep involvement in the fabric of their community. Both have a keen interest in education and high-achieving school systems.

In our view, Lavielle's business and financial expertise give her a significant advantage is helping to solve the state's problems. Like Steinberg, she has an MBA and she played a central role in the last session drafting an alternative budget that called for no tax increase. Knowing that part of Westport would join the 143rd District, Lavielle has spent an impressive amount of time immersing herself in Westport and isues important to its residents.

Westport voters also will have one of two state senate seats on their ballots, depending where they live.

Most of the town is in the 26th Senate District, where incumbent Repuiblican Toni Boucher of Wilton is challenged by Democrat Carolanne Curry of Westport, who has never held elective office.

Curry has called for a cap on local property taxes, enhanced services for seniors and a "common sense" approach to government. She has painted Boucher as too close to business but has offered few details of how she would remedy the state's fiscal wores

Boucher is progressive on social issues but fiscally conservative. Like Lavielle, she played a roll in drafting a no-tax-increase budget. That fiscal conservatism, coupled with her wealth of leguislative experience will be needed in the next session, and she deserves reelection.

In the 28th Senate District, Republican John McKinney is unopposed.