Primary to determine challenger in 17th

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Three Democratic candidates will face off in a primary this month for a chance to represent the 17th Senatorial District.

Jorge Cabrera received the Democratic nomination but will have to beat out fellow Democrats Sean Grace and Valerie Horsley in the Aug. 14 primary to earn a spot on the ballot in the state election in November.

Cabrera, 44, of Hamden, works for the United Food and Commercial Worker’s Union Local 919. He is married and the father of twin 13-year-old boys.

Cabrera, who has a bachelor’s degree in political science and has worked as an aide to the former Speaker of the House of Representatives Moira Lyons, said his experience makes him stand out among the candidates.

“I think that gives me a leg up in experience and in knowing how things work in Hartford,” Cabrera said.

Cabrera said the biggest issue facing the state is what he calls the “opportunity gap.”

He said there aren’t enough opportunities or pathways for people to make it into the middle class in Connecticut.

In order to overcome the “opportunity gap,” Cabrera said the state needs to invest more money in public schools, including vocational and technical schools, and needs to do more to support small businesses, which would allow more people to move into the middle class.

Grace, 47, of Hamden, previously worked on the floor and as a manager of distribution centers, including United Parcel Service and Bozzuto’s Inc., and started his own political consulting business. He said he’s stepped away from his job to focus on his campaign.

Grace, who’s married and the father of 15-year-old triplets, said the state needs to do more to ensure the economy is moving in a positive direction and the infrastructure is maintained.

Grace said many of the bridges in the state are structurally deficient, there is limited public transportation, and the public transportation that does exist in the state is in need of upgrades.

Grace said ensuring infrastructure is up to date will show potential businesses that the state will care for them and their employees.

“We have been kicking the can down the road since the recession to make sure our state is attractive,” Grace said. “If we have an attractive infrastructure and useful infrastructure we will attract businesses.”

Grace said he also wants to focus on investing in public education, from pre-kindergarten through college.

“Our students should not be drowning in debt. We are a wealthy state. We should be able to offer a debt-free college education,” Grace said.

Grace believes the state has a “regressive” tax plan that leads to the wealthiest 1 percent of the population to pay less taxes overall.

“We need to ask the wealthiest to pay their fair share. Then we can make the kind of investment we need in this state,” Grace said.

Horsley, 41, of Hamden, is a professor of molecular and cell biology at Yale University and runs a laboratory at Yale.

Horsley, a single mother of 7-year-old and 12-year-old daughters, said the biggest issue facing the state is its budget crisis.

“The problem with our budget is that, for decades, we didn’t plan to pay the obligations we had for pensions we promised people,” Horsley said. “We can’t renege on those obligations because people planned their lives on what we promised them.”

Horsley said the solution can’t be simply pushing the costs off onto municipalities. She said the state can address the budget issues, in part, by ensuring that it is not duplicating services within different areas of the government and working to bring in new industries into the state.

Horsley said she is also interested in bringing tolls into the state, so that out-of-state drivers can help pay for the upkeep of roads.

Horsley also wants to ensure students are well-educated in science, so the state will have a work force that attracts technical industries and can help grow the industrial base over the long term.

The winner of the primary will face state Sen. George Logan, the Republican incumbent, in November.

Logan, a 49-year-old Ansonia resident and the director of environmental management for Aquarian Water Company, is seeking his second term in office representing the 17th Senatorial District, which covers all or parts of Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Derby, Hamden, Naugatuck and Woodbridge.

Grace said the fact that he was born in the district and has been out meeting residents for a long time gives him an advantage.

Grace was born in Ansonia, grew up in Beacon Falls and went to school at St. Hedwig’s School in Naugatuck. He also has a number of family members who live in the district.

“From the perspective of winning in November, it matters that you have a deep connection to the district and understand needs of the residents,” Grace said.

Grace said he has been out in the community, knocking on doors and talking to residents since he decided to run.

“I have hit way more doors than anyone else in this race. That will be key to taking back the seat — having one-on-one connections with voters,” Grace said.

Horsley said what makes her stand out is that she is a single mother and works as a scientist.

“I understand issues that affect working women and families in our areas,” Horsley said. “As a scientist, I am trained as a problem solver. I know how to use studies to solve problems and that will be useful for problems we are facing.”