Meriden Democrat Jan Hochadel won the party nod in the 13th Senate District last week, but a former Cheshire Town Councilor, along with another candidate from Middletown, are set to challenge her.
Hochadel received 31 delegate votes at the convention held at the Augusta Curtis Cultural Center in Meriden on Tuesday, May 10, while Anthony Mangiafico of Middletown garnered 13 votes and Michael Ecke of Cheshire received 10. Meriden has the most electors among the four towns, and most electors voted for candidates within their own municipal borders. Both Mangiafico and Ecke qualified for an Aug. 9 primary.
“There were very few defections,” said Ecke, who served on the Cheshire Town Council for 10 years.
The 13th Senate District covers Meriden, Middlefield and parts of Middletown and Cheshire.
Ecke announced that he will challenge Hochadel on Thursday, May 12, after initially stating that he was undecided.
“I am eager to bring my experience on the Cheshire Town Council and my experience as a financial professional to Hartford,” said Ecke, who is a CPA by profession, in a statement. “I am fully aware that this will not be an easy primary. I have won tough races before, and I intend to win this race and the general (election) in November.”
Ecke was a member of the Town Council for six terms, until he was defeated by current First District Councilor David Veleber in 2017.
“I’ve been in politics 20 years, and I don’t think any Cheshire candidate has ventured to run,” Ecke said last week, after Hochadel was announced as the endorsed candidate. “Meriden still has dominance. I was on the budget committee in Cheshire, and have a lot of depth in financial and budgeting matters. I was comptroller in the (Meriden-based) Suzio York Hill Co. for 12 years, so I’m very familiar with Meriden.”
Mangiafico, a member of the Middletown Common Council and principal of the East Hartford Adult Education & Continuing Education Program, has filed paperwork to enter the primary.
“I am the best candidate out of the three of us to represent the entire district in Hartford,” Mangiafico said. “I’m a working educator, father and the son of two immigrants. I understand the everyday struggles of the residents of the 13th district.”
Mangiafico said that although some temporary measures have been taken to ease the tax burden for residents, he’d like to see more permanent and equitable programs put into practice. He is particularly proud that the city of Middletown has lowered its mill rate over the past three years.
Hochadel, the state president of the American Federation of Teachers union, was out of the U.S. and couldn’t be reached for comment last Thursday. Two weeks ago, she told the Record-Journal she has spoken to Mangiafico as a fellow educator and believes she is the most experienced candidate to represent the district.
“We’ve talked and I know he does represent adult education,” Hochadel said. “But at the end of the day, I feel like I represent everybody in education — from paras all the way up to higher ed and everything in between, as well as health care and other workers.
“And I just feel as though I have a broader knowledge and I’m a better candidate,” Hochadel added.
The candidates sought the Democratic nomination to succeed incumbent Democratic Sen. Mary Daughtery Abrams. Abrams announced earlier this year that she would not seek re-election to the seat she has held for two terms.
Hochadel is a former science teacher in the state technical high school system, having taught at Wright Technical High School in Stamford and at Kaynor Technical High School in Waterbury.
Earlier this spring, the national Coalition on Adult Basic Education named Mangiafico as outstanding administrator of the year. According to the coalition, the award is given to “an adult education administrator with five or more years of experience who has made an outstanding contribution toward fostering the concept of education as a continuing life-process.”
In addition to leading East Hartford’s adult education program, Mangiafico also serves as president of the Connecticut Association for Adult and Continuing Education.
The primary winner will face Republican Joseph Vollano of Meriden, who filed paperwork last month to run in the 13th district. Vollano owns a fuel supply company and is a current member of the Meriden Board of Assessment Appeals. He has previously run unsuccessful campaigns for state and local office. He was originally one of two Republicans seeking the endorsement in the 83rd House district this year, before switching to the Senate race, which allowed Republicans to avoid a primary.
“I always welcome as many different voices as possible to the conversation,” Vollano said two weeks ago. “It’s not going to change our strategy.”
Vollano told the Record-Journal he plans to discuss issues his campaign has identified as important, including the state police accountability bill that was signed into law in 2020, and critical race theory, often referred to as CRT.
“Our strategy doesn’t change,” Vollano said, adding Republicans will let the contest on the Democratic Party side play out.
“We will let them settle,” Vollano said. “There are some divisions inside the Democratic Party — some different views. Are they far left? Are they going to move to the center?”