With State Rep. Joe Mioli, D-136, announcing that he will not be seeking a fourth term, a vacancy in the upcoming November election was created that both Democrats and Republicans are clamoring to fill.

Some names are already official, while others have unofficially expressed interest for both parties.

"It's anybody's race," Mioli said. "My personal feeling is that anybody who runs ... can't be too far to the left or too far to the right."

Mioli, a native of Italy and the former co-owner of Westport Pizzeria, said he made his decision about not running six or seven months ago. Instead, he'll be seeking office in the 945-member Italian parliament. A set amount of seats are available for Italians living abroad, and Mioli intends to have a go at one in the spring 2012 election.

He said he will still live in Westport, and travel to Italy for legislative sessions.

With Mioli stepping down when this term is up, Republicans see a chance to seize the seat that has not been held by the GOP since 2002. They would also like to take advantage of the opportunity to tip the majority in the state legislature back in their favor.

"We are incredibly excited," said Bob Zappi, chairman of the Republican Town Committee (RTC). "We are anxious to have a better advocate for the needs of Westport and not somebody who votes with the majority and with the party line in Hartford. Joe Mioli is a nice guy and we thank him for his service, but moving on we have several people interested in running."

Official Republican candidates include Steve Rubin, a long-time member of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM), and Allen Levy, a 42-year-old Westport resident who owns real estate and businesses throughout Fairfield County.

Zappi said two other candidates have expressed interest, but nothing is official yet. Depending on the number of candidates, Zappi said he wants to hold a debate prior to the May caucus, when registered Republicans in town determine who will be the party's endorsed candidate.

James Ezzes, chairman of the Democratic Town Committee (DTC), expressed disappointment that Mioli isn't running again, and also gratitude for the work he's done in the past three terms.

"He knew everybody in town," Ezzes said of Mioli. "He always had the pulse of what people were feeling ... so when it came to represent them in Hartford, he knew it, which is why he was good."

Ezzes said a couple people are interested in running for office. Still, he's encouraging registered Democrats in town to submit a resume to the DTC. A search committee will be formed and make a recommendation, and then a candidate would be determined in a convention this spring.

The 136th district consists only of Westport, with no other towns. A small part of the Greens Farms area is in the 133rd district. As such, Ezzes said that whoever represents the district has to have the concerns of Westport in mind when in the legislature.

"The fact that Joe, who has lived here for so long and knows the town so well, [his not running again is] going to be a change," Ezzes said.

Looking ahead

While campaigns are still a ways off and platforms must be fine-tuned, the two Republican candidates are looking toward the future.

Already, rumors have dogged Rubin that he would be willing to switch parties for the election, but he said the rumors are not true and that he will remain a Republican.

"I would to like it make it very clear: I have always been a Republican ... and I'm seeking the nomination of the 136th district as a Republican," Rubin said.

Rubin, who said he is a life-long Republican, has been on the RTM since 1993 and is retired from the field of medical and surgical supplies. He now works at the town's Parks and Recreation Department, and he said he will resign from that position if elected.

"When you talk about what I have to offer, I'm not just another big business man," said Rubin. "I'm not a rich man looking for a hobby. I'm not an attorney. I'm just a regular working guy and I consider myself a citizen's candidate, and I think that's one of the reasons Mioli was elected."

Levy, who was born in Fairfield and lived in Westport for the past 12 years, said what prompted him to run was the imbalance of the political parties in the state house of representatives.

"That's what did it," he said. "The imbalance and the disconnect between the legislature and the people has been what's bothering me for a while. The solution is not a completely Republican house. The solution is a 50-50 house."

As the owner of a number of businesses throughout Fairfield and the former chairman of Bridgeport Downtown Special Services District, an organization that promotes business in that area, Levy said he wants to bring business back to Connecticut.

"I'm for tax cuts and reduced spending and making Connecticut a more attractive place for business," Levy said. "We have a tremendous amount of business in the New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts areas and if we can lower our taxes compared to the surrounding states, we can attract more businesses."