13th Senate district candidate touts education credentials

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MERIDEN — Democrat Jan Hochadel said her experience working for public school teachers and students makes her a natural advocate to represent the citizens of the 13th Senate district.

Hochadel, a Meriden resident, is president of the American Federation of Teachers CT, the second largest teachers union in the state, representing 30,000 members. 

“I have been an advocate for my children, my students, and my members,” Hochadel said in a campaign press statement. “I’m running for state Senate so I can advocate for everyone in Cheshire, Meriden, Middlefield, and Middletown.”

Hochadel approached Meriden Town Chairwoman Millie Torres-Ferguson about becoming a delegate to the upcoming party convention. Torres-Ferguson asked her if she would consider running for the seat and after some thought, Hochadel agreed.   

Hochadel registered her campaign committee with the state Elections Enforcement Commission last week and will immediately begin raising funds to qualify for the Citizen’s Election Program, the state’s optional program for public financing for elections to state office, she said. Peter Hargett will serve as her committee treasurer and Meriden City Councilor and Deputy Mayor Michael Cardona as deputy treasurer.

The 13th Senate district became an open race after state Sen. Mary Daugherty Abrams, a Democrat, announced earlier this month she would not be seeking re-election due to an unspecified illness.

“Mary Abrams has been a champion for working families across our state,” Hochadel stated. “She delivered a $15 minimum wage, Paid Family Leave, and helped families across our region recover from the pandemic. I wish her all the best with prayers for her health.”

Hochadel faces Republican Gwen Samuel, an activist on parental choice and family issues. Samuel filed paperwork with the state to establish an exploratory committee in March and told the Record-Journal Friday she was refiling as a candidate.

Hochadel earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of New Haven and began working for Pfizer in 1984. After 18 years, she began pursuing teaching degrees and taught science at state technical schools across the state.  

Hochadel’s union involvement led her to become president of the the statewide union that represents 30,000 public sector healthcare and education workers.  Her experience has brought her face to face with the state legislature while serving on the negotiating team for the state employee bargaining agent coalition.

“I know the process of how things happen in the Capitol, and I want to use that experience to hit the ground running to deliver results for families across the 13th district,” she said. “I know the issues, I talk to workers every day about their hardships and what the state could do to make their lives a little easier.” 

Would keep union post

In a phone interview Monday, Hochadel said opposing viewpoints within a diverse union membership have helped her understand the importance of listening to other perspectives on issues. About 30 percent of the members are Republicans, she said. The transition to representing the needs of all constituents is centered on listening to those needs. 

Hochadel intends to keep her current union role if elected to the Senate. 

“It involves talking to people as people finding out their needs and getting their stories,” she said. “I live in the community too. I’m really looking forward to helping the communities.”

Just as Samuel has the backing of local and state Republican leaders, Hochadel has strong support from her party.

“Jan is exactly the type of leader we need right now,” former Meriden City Councilor Chad Cardillo, also a teacher at Maloney High School in Meriden, said in a press statement. “I see everyday that my students are still struggling socially and emotionally because of hardships their families face. Jan knows first hand the type of support educators need to improve outcomes for our children, and she will tirelessly fight for recovery that puts families first.”

Former Middletown City Councilor Todd Berch said Hochadel won’t experience much of a learning curve in the Capitol.

“After we elect Jan she won’t have to spend any time getting up to speed,” Berch stated in the same release. “She knows exactly what it takes to get bills passed and increase funding for our communities.”

Samuel feared Hochadal’s union interests could conflict with her role representing students and families, and criticized some union policies as being “not good for children,” she said. 

“As she makes her best effort to communicate her message to the 13th district, Jan must keep in mind that if she wins she has to care just as much about every constituent in the 13th district as does as a union leader whose mission is to protect union members. I do feel this will provide a challenge for her,” Samuel stated in a text message.

This story was updated to include comments from Republican candidate Gwen Samuel. 

 mgodin@record-journal.com203-317-2255Twitter: @Cconnbiz


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