Two Republicans have entered the 83rd House district race following the redrawing of the district to include part of Cheshire, more of Berlin and less of Meriden.
Both parties are interviewing candidates to present to electors before the General Assembly party conventions in May.
Republican Lou Arata, who made strong challenges against incumbent state Rep. Catherine Abercrombie, D-83rd, is vying for the seat in November. Republican Joseph Vollano, who has also unsuccessfully run for state and local offices, is also seeking the party nomination. Abercrombie is not seeking re-election after serving eight years. A Democrat has yet to announce in the race.
There have been some changes in Meriden Republican Town Committee leadership following a vote on March 16. Elain Cariati, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2021, was elected party chairwoman unseating former chair Sean McDonald. Arata was elected vice chair.
Cariati said the Republican Town Committee has not endorsed Arata or Vollano and recently completed choosing electors for the 83rd convention on May 17. The candidates will also meet with GOP town committees in Berlin and Cheshire who could put up their own candidates.
“We’re looking forward to them coming to a Meriden Town Committee meeting and speaking to us,” Cariati said. “I’m glad we have two candidates from our hometown in Meriden.”Arata
In addition to being the vice chairman of the town committee, Arata is also the vice chairman of the Meriden Public Utilities Commission.
“The decision to run again has been challenging as the seat is open with the retirement of the 8-term incumbent,” Arata stated in a press release. “With that there will be many opportunists looking to flex their political muscle now that they see an open seat. I assure you that I take on the process with the highest degree of passion and integrity, as I have always done in the past. I care about Meriden and the direction of Connecticut and the direction of our country.”
Arata believes the maps took too long to be redrawn and weren’t done in a bi-partisan fashion. He recognized that while some Republicans made some gains, in the end, the overall effort will likely favor Democrats, he said.
“Having the minority voice in Connecticut politics often means their voices, ideas and recommendations get laughed at and don’t get acted upon, and I don’t think that’s fair representation,” Arata said. “I’ve wanted to see it fair for everyone since 2018.”
Arata believes in smaller, less intrusive government, decreasing the tax burden on individuals, families and small business and support for police and education.Vollano
Vollano owns a fuel and diesel delivery operation in the city and hosts the “Straight Talk” podcast that touches on state, local and national issues and politics. He has been a candidate for City Council and state legislative races and has served on several Republican campaigns. Abercrombie's margin of victory in 2016 against Vollano, was just 168 votes: 5,273 to 5,105.
“The timing is right,” Vollano said. “Business is taking off and it gives me more time to help the community. The podcast has been successful and a lot of people asked me to run.”
Vollano, whose campaign treasurer is Joshua Broekstra, said his priority is controlling taxes, including the gas and diesel tax, and opposes the state police accountibilty bill legislation signed into law in 2020 and the recently established Meriden Citizens Review Board.
“I’d like to make it more friendly so (police) are not afraid to do their jobs,” Vollano said.
Vollano is familiar with the eastern part of Cheshire included in the newly redrawn district and believes the new map will help Republicans “a little bit.”
He looks forward to a spirited race.
“I know Lou is running,” he said.”The more participants, the more information the public is going to get. I look forward to a great race.”
Former Republican Mayor Manny Santos said the new Republican leadership vote and two candidates vying for the same seat has brought new excitement to the party.
“It’s one of those things that happens sometimes,” Santos said. “It’s good for a town committee to have multiple people interested in a chairmanship.This brings a whole new energy to the party. Now that the delegates are selected, our focus is on getting candidates identified and elected.”Quinn, Abrams
The one candidate solidly in place for city Democrats is Michael Quinn in the 82nd district, which became all Meriden in the redistricting map. As of Tuesday, Republicans had not yet named a contender.
City Democrats are still interviewing candidates and having discussions with their counterparts in Cheshire and Berlin for the 83rd district and should have a candidate soon, said Meriden Democratic Town Chairwoman Millie Torres-Ferguson.
The 13th Senate District, which covers Meriden, Middlefield and parts of Middletown and Cheshire is also uncertain. Incumbent Democrat Mary Abrams has not announced she’s in the race, and nothing has been filed with the Secretary of the State’s office. The 13th district’s perennial GOP challenger Leonard Suzio also has not announced his candidacy nor has he made any filings.
Abrams and Suzio could not be reached for comment, and Suzio has made no overtures to city Republicans, Santos said.
“As the incumbent, we are giving Mary the time she needs to make her decision,” Torres-Ferguson said in a text message. “Although at this point our direction remains unclear, we will be prepared either way.”Santiago
Democrats must also consider a potential replacement in the 84th district currently held by state Rep. Hilda Santiago, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Secretary of the State. Santiago recently received a flurry of local and statewide endorsements including that of U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy and Meriden Deputy Mayor Michael Cardona.
“We have several candidates interested if Hilda gets the nomination,” Torres-Ferguson said.
Republicans have not named a candidate in the 84th district. Samuel
Republican Gwen Samuel, an activist for parent and children’s causes has formed an exploratory committee to gauge interest in a run for the 13th Senate district, but has not officially entered the race.
“Gwen has been involved in the community as an activist for school choice and big advocate of more parental control,” Santos said. It’s simply exploratory to gauge support. I don’t know for certain if she’ll run.”
Samuel could not be reached for comment.
Reporter Mary Ellen Godin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.