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Teachers’ union leader from Meriden enters race for 13th Senate seat

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MERIDEN — Jan Hochadel, a city resident and state and national teachers’ union official, has entered the race for the 13th Senate district seat as a Democrat. 

State campaign filings show that Hochadel, current president of the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut and a vice president of the national union, filed as a candidate in the race on April 12. 

The 13th Senate district represents Meriden, Middlefield and parts of Cheshire and Middletown. Democratic State Sen. Mary Daugherty Abrams, the two-term incumbent, announced earlier this spring that she would not seek reelection to the seat. 

Neither Hochadel nor Abrams returned phone calls seeking comment. 

Meriden Federation of Teachers President Lauren Mancini-Averitt touted Hochadel’s credentials, particularly as an education leader. Throughout the pandemic, as leader of AFT Connecticut, Hochadel has established she is able to communicate with other leaders, including Gov. Ned Lamont, Mancini-Averitt said. 

Mancini-Averitt said Abrams, like Hochadel, has a “strong educational background.” She also maintains close ties with Meriden. 

“We want to keep the seat in Meriden,” Mancini-Averitt said. 

A likely opponent Hochadel would face in the November contest is Gwen Samuel, also of Meriden. Samuel, founder of the Connecticut Parents Union education advocacy group, had formed an exploratory committee for a possible run as a Republican in the 13th Senate district. Samuel, reached on Friday, said she will be transitioning from an exploratory to candidate committee. 

Samuel said the COVID-19 pandemic has “just exacerbated the challenges people have faced.” Small business owners and children have been among the most impacted, she said. 

Samuel criticized the administration of Gov. Ned Lamont for continuing to issue executive orders, saying the governor needs to engage with legislators. 

“Why are you not engaging with the representatives, so they can represent their communities?” Samuel asked in a question posed indirectly to Lamont.  “It’s about engaging the citizens.”

“We have to do better,” Samuel said, adding statewide, Democrats hold a strong majority. 

“It needs to be more balanced — with diversity,” she said.

According to a biography of Hochadel on the AFT Connecticut website, she was elected as president of the statewide union in 2015, after previously serving as an officer for the State Vocational Federation of Teachers. That branch of the union represents educators and support staff in the state Technical High School System. 

In 2018, Lamont, then governor-elect, tapped Hochadel to serve on his administration’s transition committee, according to AFT Connecticut. Lamont would later appoint Hochadel to serve on the state’s Reopen Connecticut Panel, representing “teachers and school support staff on the public education subcommittee charged with developing plans to safely resume in-person learning,” according to AFT Connecticut. 

State Republican Party Chairman Ben Proto previously described Samuel as well-known for her work on statewide parent and education issues.

"Gwen is at the forefront of education and parenting," Proto told the Record-Journal previously. "Across the state, it comes down to how the voters see Biden and Lamont have handled the economy, parent rights, violent crime. There are a lot of issues out there that are going to impact the election."

Proto was optimistic about the chances of Republicans retaking the seat then, and remained so on Friday. 

“Nothing has changed, I still like our chances in this district,” Proto wrote in an email to the Record-Journal. 

Reporter Michael Gagne can be reached at mgagne@record-journal.com.


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