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Two Visions For Connecticut Clash At Debate

Two Visions For Connecticut Clash At Debate

(add headshots of Logan and Cabrera)

 

Logan And Cabrera Face Off In Hot Contest

By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent

 

Two years after a very close election in 2018, from which Republican State Sen. George Logan eventually emerged as the winner, he and his Democratic challenger, George (Jorge) Cabrera, are engaged in a rematch for votes in the 17th District.  “This has been a year like no other and it has been a campaign like no other,” Sen. Logan said during his opening statement at an October 15 debate, sponsored by the Hamden Regional Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the League of Women Voters of Hamden/North Haven and broadcast live on Facebook.  “The Pandemic has changed all our lives in extraordinary ways.”

With a slim lead in a traditionally Democratic district, Logan spoke fast and with determination, using every one of the 90 seconds to develop a vision for Connecticut that would make it attractive to businesses and people in equal measure, all while trying to distinguish himself from his opponent.  He talked about affordable access to resources, ranging from health care to education and jobs, as well as topics typically embraced by Democrats, such as the preservation of natural resources, even embracing diversity and equity as fundamental values.

Cabrera meanwhile, a union organizer, put the emphasis on the people, saying everyone he met with during the campaign was struggling in some fashion.  “People are working really, really hard and they are not making it,” he said.

If elected, his focus would be on health care, jobs and worker’s protections during the pandemic, including PPE.  “We must do more to adequately fund the Connecticut College Scholarship program so more deserving students can afford to go to college,” he said.  “Efforts to make community college affordable for more students should be expanded.  No student should graduate from college with massive student loan debt,” he said.

As for healthcare, the state will have to do more as the Affordable Care Act is being cut at the federal level.  Cabrera said he supported the Connecticut Public Health Option, a bill that would have allowed small businesses and individuals to buy into the state employee health benefit plan.  The bill had been met with heavy opposition by the insurance industry.

The candidates were asked whether they would support efforts to expand early voting in the state.  They both embraced the concept, but Logan took a more cautious approach, saying mail-in voting should be explored and developed and then put to referendum.  When challenged by Cabrera who said the senator’s voting record does not reflect that support, Logan said the legislature needs to make sure that fraud is not a potential issue – “right now there are all kinds of problems,” with people receiving the wrong ballots, he said.

Cabrera disagreed.  “By and large it is safe and effective,” he said, registering his support.  “We make voting too hard in Connecticut.”

Asked about the Black Lives Matter movement, Cabrera said he plans to be a champion for many of the issues that were brought up in recent months.  “We have not been investing enough…to help families,” he said, referring to funding schools, mental health services and job training programs.  And he pushed the incumbent again on his voting record, saying Logan voted no to two important pieces of legislation, namely the paid family medical leave law and raising minimum wage.

Logan defended his record, saying he opposed the family medical leave act not because it was a bad idea, but because it resulted in a .05% payroll tax.  “I support the option to buy into it,” he clarified, adding that the only people who don’t have to pay into it are union workers.  “No surprise my opponent supports that law,” he said.

One of the questions submitted to them was the lack of affordable housing – a hot topic in Woodbridge, after a group of New Haven attorneys came out to challenge the local zoning laws.

Senator Logan was quick to respond, saying the best way to help people is through a vibrant economy, so they can save and build equity and be able to live where they want to.  The answer to this problem is not by forcing communities to accept development they don’t want, he said.

Properties in Woodbridge don’t have public water, they’re on wells, he explained.  They have no sewers; they have septic systems.  “Forcing something on communities that are not set up for it, perhaps because of their geography – it’s important we consider all that.”

Cabrera spoke of the American dream and how we have to address redlining as a systematic issue.  “The data on this is crystal clear,” he said.  “It begins with providing on-ramps for the middle class, good paying jobs.”

Those ramps to the middle class, he said at a later point in the debate, consist of access to good schools and training programs; also, to make the cost of doing business more affordable.  “We need to make access to manufacturing jobs, trade jobs more affordable.”

Another question presented to the candidates was in regards to quasi-judicial entities such as PURA (Public Utilities Regulatory Authority) and the Connecticut Siting Council, and whether they should be more accountable to the people of the state, a notion that both candidates supported.

“The Siting Council should have more of community vote,” Cabrera said, “to reflect the will of the people.”

Similarly, Logan spoke of a project to install a solar facility on Gaylord Mountain Road, for which 15 acres of trees would have to be razed.  He said he heard from many folks on that issue.  “It doesn’t have the support of the community,” he said, adding he will continue to follow it and see if there is a compromise that can be made.  “Let’s see if there is a more suitable location,” he said.

Cabrera, who lives in the area, was very clear that this is not a good fit.  “We’re talking about quality of life,” he said.  “This is one project that I think is a really bad idea.”

As for the governor’s Council on Climate Change, referred to as GC3, which seeks to achieve a low-carbon future for the state by 2030, Cabrera embraced the concept that clean water and clean air are a right of every citizen.  He expressed appreciation for open space and said that the effort will create green jobs.

“This is an issue that we can tackle,” he said, calling out the federal government for “dereliction of duty.”  “Here we have an opportunity to be a leader,” he said.

Logan meanwhile took a more cautious approach, saying he looks forward to seeing the recommendations from the Governor’s Council, but that he wanted to make sure it will help, not hurt our state.  ‘it is important to remember that climate change and our economy are not mutually exclusive,” he said.

The 17th District encompasses Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Derby, and parts of Hamden, Naugatuck, and Woodbridge.

Senator Logan lives in Ansonia with his wife, Lisa, a registered nurse working for the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and their two children.  He is a director at Aquarion Water Company and serves on the Griffin Hospital board of directors.  On occasion he can be seen as front-man for the Jimi Hendrix tribute band Electric Lady Band.

His candidacy is cross-endorsed by the Independent Party.  He is seeking his third term.

George Cabrera and his wife Rebecca, a public school principal, live in Hamden with their twin teenage boys, who attend Hamden public schools.

He lists among his endorsements the Sierra Club, the Working Families Party, Planned Parenthood, UFCW Local 371 and Local 919, AFSCME Council 4 and SEIU CT state Council.  In 2008, he joined President Obama’s campaign to organize in battleground states like Ohio and North Carolina.

When asked about two priorities he would set for himself as a senator, Cabrera mentioned healthcare and economic development in the Valley.  “I would work my heart out to make those things happen,” he said.

Logan meanwhile pointed out that Cabrera would be part of the status quo in Hartford.  “We need to go in a different direction,” he said with emphasis, adding that we need more financially conservative-leaning legislators in Hartford to turn the state around.

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