A Middletown Democrat has entered the race for the 13th Senate district.
Anthony Mangiafico, a member of the Middletown Common Council and principal of the East Hartford Adult & Continuing Education program, filed paperwork registering as a candidate on April 26, according to state campaign filings. The 13th Senate district covers Meriden and Middlefield, along with parts of Cheshire and Middletown.
Mangiafico joins Meriden resident Jan Hochadel in seeking 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.
Mangiafico, who is in his third year serving on the Middletown Common Council, said, “I think that I have the right experience to tackle this seat right now.”
Mangiafico is now the second educator to enter the field. Hochadel, his opponent in seeking the Democratic nomination, is the current president of the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut union, with which the local Meriden Federation of Teachers union is affiliated. 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.
Mangiafico said that role, advocating for adult learners across Connecticut, gave him statewide experience.
“That’s when I realized the best place for me would be the state Senate,” Mangiafico said. “I think a lot of the issues that affect our adult learners are issues that affect adults in general. The tax burden that our working class is facing is not tenable. I think we really need to look at our tax system overall.”
Mangiafico, 43, said both of his parents immigrated to the United States — his mother from Brazil and his father from Italy. From their experiences, he realized there were not enough supports in place for students who were learning English as a second language — particularly adults.
“Both completed their studies in Hartford adult education. They were able to create a marble tile and granite business,” Mangiafico said, adding he worked alongside his parents while growing up – installing countertops and flooring.
“My parents really taught me a strong work ethic and also about giving back to the community,” Mangiafico said.
Hochadel, reached late in the day Monday, said she is familiar with Mangiafico, and that the two have spoken previously.
“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, I feel like I represent everybody in education — from paras all the way up to higher ed and everything in between, as well as healthcare and other workers.
“And I just feel as though I have a broader knowledge and I’m a better candidate,” Hochadel said.
On the Republican side, Joseph Vollano of Meriden filed paperwork last month registering as that party’s candidate in the 13th District. Vollano had initially filed paperwork for a run in the 83rd House district where another Meriden Republican, Lou Arata, was also seeking the nomination.
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.
“I always welcome as many different voices as possible to the conversation,” Vollano said. “It’s not going to change our strategy.”
Vollano said 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?”
Meriden Democratic Town Chairwoman Millie Torres Ferguson, reached Monday, reiterated that her town committee continues to stand behind Hochadel’s candidacy.
“Jan’s a great candidate. She’s already hit the ground running and Anthony’s interest doesn’t change the Meriden DTC’s support for Jan,” Torres-Ferguson said.
Michael Fallon, Torres Ferguson’s counterpart on the Middletown Democratic Town Committee, spoke highly of Mangiafico’s credentials.
“He brings with him local government experience as a member of the Common Council. He is involved in our community,” Fallon said, noting that Mangiafico chairs several of the council’s committees, including its LTBTQ Advisory Committee.
Fallon also said he would like to recognize the efforts of Abrams, as she wraps up her final term representing the 13th district, saying Middletown “owes a tremendous debt of gratitude” to Abrams.
“She served Middletown well. She is a tremendous public servant,” Fallon said. We are so fortunate to have had Mary Abrams be our senator the past four years.”
Reporter Michael Gagne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.