Given the close races of the past couple of election cycles, some political pundits in the state point to the 17th Senate District as one of the local races to watch.
Jorge Cabrera, a Hamden Democrat, won two years ago by 2,076 votes against incumbent, George Logan. Two years prior, he had lost to Logan with an even narrower margin. But Logan has moved to the Fifth Congressional District and is now vying for that seat. Senator Cabrera is seeking re-election for a second term. His candidacy is cross-endorsed by the Working Families Party as well as the Independent Party.
The 17th Senate district encompasses parts of seven towns, each of which has very distinct needs. They are Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Derby, Hamden, Naugatuck and Woodbridge.
The Republicans are fielding a fellow Hamden resident, Kathy Hoyt, to carry their program into the ring. “I am not pleased with the current representation in Hartford,” she said in an introductory video on her website, hoytforsenate.com. She challenges Democratic leadership to improve the business climate in the state.
“A fiscally responsible state cannot rely on taxpayers as a replacement for a successful business environment,” she posted on her website. “Residents in the 17th District are struggling to balance their own family budgets with no relief in sight, as prices continue to skyrocket on everything from food to energy to home heating oil.” By lowering or even rescinding taxes, the state could provide relief, she claimed, for example by lowering the sales tax, meals tax, plastic bag tax and many more.
She would be in favor of re-negotiating some of the decisions taken these past few years, including the decision to raise the minimum wage. “We must re-examine bills such as the payroll tax, minimum wage increase, and the budget hikes the General Assembly enacted in 2019. These job-killing measures have placed an unnecessary burden on our small businesses and the middle-class residents. We must reform our legislative approach to encourage and attract business, creating more opportunities for growth.”
Crime rate up or down? “It is no secret that Connecticut has become notably less safe over the past few years,” Hoyt said in her video. “Murders in Connecticut have climbed by 30% since 2020. Motor vehicle thefts have increased by over 40%. Robberies have increased in our state while declining nationwide. People in our community feel our state officials are not addressing this issue.”
Her crime figures, however, do not mesh with those put out by many Democrats, who say that crime actually decreased. The report they base their statements on is attached to Sen. Cabrera’s press release on this issue, and provides the answer: Overall crime rates have dropped significantly from ten years ago, but in 2021 several crime categories experienced a bump up. The “Crime in Connecticut” report, issued by state police, shows that indeed, the crime index from 2019 to 2020 went up from 1,628 to 1,768, then leveled off at 1,717 in 2021; it is still considerably lower than the 2,447 recorded in 2012.
Even so, both candidates share the feeling that “Everyone deserves to feel safe in their home, neighborhood and community.”
Senator Cabrera points out that he was among many legislators who, in recent years, have voted in support of bills strengthening juvenile crime laws and cracking down on car thefts as well as catalytic converters in efforts to reduce crime rates in Connecticut.
At a time when state coffers are flush with federal infrastructure monies, Cabrera has managed to procure state funding for several projects in his district:
- -The Community Investment Fund awarded $750,000 to Hamden for drainage improvements in the Newhall neighborhood;
- -Bethany, Woodbridge and Beacon Falls are also recipients of Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grants. Woodbridge will receive $500,000 in state funding for the renovation of the Center Gym. This will be matched by $106,687 from the town. Bethany will receive $404,696 for road improvements;
- -The state Bond Commission was expected to approve $4.3 million for replacement of a 100-year-old fire house in Hamden and $1.3 million in repairs and quality of life improvements to the Keefe Community Center;
- -Cabrera, along with other Valley legislators, applauded the inclusion of $200,000 from the Bond Commission for upgrades to TEAM, Inc.’s headquarters in Derby.
Kathy Hoyt grew up in Hamden. She graduated from Hamden High School and Central Connecticut State University, with an Undergraduate Degree in Elementary Education, and a Masters in Educational Leadership. Kathy went on to become a teacher, and eventually, an administrator.
For the past 18 years she has been a real estate agent in New Haven County. Kathy is active on many boards in the local area. She is an active member of the Hamden Chamber of Commerce, serving on both the executive Board, and the Governmental Affairs Committee. Kathy believes that small business needs to be supported, and encouraged for growth in our state. Kathy also serves on the Board of Directors for the House of Heroes, a non-profit organization that supports and assists veterans.
As a union organizer and workers’ rights advocate Jorge Cabrera has been fighting for working families in the district and across the country for more than 25 years. His father came from Puerto Rico in the 1960s to look for a better life. Cabrera became the first in his family to attend college. During his time at Quinnipiac University, he met his future wife, Rebecca. In 1998 he graduated, earning a degree in Political Science with high honors.
After two years as a legislative aide to then-Speaker of the House Moira Lyons, Cabrera spent nearly a decade as a researcher, wage enforcement specialist, and organizer for the Carpenter’s Union. His work focused on ensuring prevailing wage laws were followed by employers and protecting members from wage theft.
Cabrera eventually moved to the 1.3-million-member United Food and Commercial Workers International and worked as an international representative. In 2008, Cabrera joined President Obama’s campaign to organize in battleground states. Today, Cabrera serves as a business representative and Director of Organizing for UFCW Local 919 in Farmington.
Cabrera and Rebecca, a public-school principal, live in Hamden with their twin fifteen-year-old sons, Cabrera and Gabe, both of whom attend Hamden public schools.
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent