Hearing his opponent interviewed on radio, Angel Cadena pulled his truck off the road, logged onto Facebook, and shared the interview — to make sure his supporters tuned in.
He was in south Jersey Tuesday delivering wholesale groceries to a supermarket in his job as a driver for J.B. Hunt. The job keeps him on the road 14 to 16 hours a day, he said. So he doesn’t have much time left to go out knocking on doors trying to win another job he’s seeking: representing New Haven’s Third U.S. Congressional District in Washington, D.C. Nor does he have any paid staff. So he finds a few moments whenever he can to take care of campaign business.
In this case that meant sharing the live video of the interview with his opponent, incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro. And even though he was helping give DeLauro a larger audience, he was fulfilling a goal of his campaign: Making sure there is a campaign.
Cadena has few illusions that he will actually win the Third District seat on Nov. 6. He knows he’s running against a popular incumbent and powerhouse fundraiser. DeLauro is seeking her 15th two-year term. The Republican Party has long (like decades long) since given up on investing money or time in candidates to run against her.
Plus, Cadena ran against DeLauro in 2016. She got 69 percent of the vote.
“It looked like [DeLauro] wasn’t going” to have an opponent this year, Cadena, who’s now 37 and living in Shelton, said during an interview of his own on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven” program. So, though he lacked time or money or an army to help him, the Marine Corps vet signed up to run again.
DeLauro is miles ahead of Cadena in terms of money, popular support, name recognition, and campaign experience. DeLauro was running for her first term in Congress in 1990 when Cadena, then 9 years old, was buying wholesale boxes of Chiclets with his brother on the south side of Chicago and reselling them for a profit in neighborhood bars and restaurants.
Forty-three out of 435 U.S. House districts have only one major-party candidate this year. That’s almost 10 percent.
“It’s not healthy for our democracy,” Cadena said. “We always need a choice.”
Thanks to Cadena, New Haven voters have a clear choice next Tuesday when they select their next Congressional representative. Perhaps the clearest choice imaginable, on the hot-button topics with which the country is wrestling these days. In back-to-back interviews this week on “Dateline New Haven,” Republican Cadena proudly backed President Donald Trump’s policies and remarks on those issues; Democrat DeLauro waved the Resistance flag with gusto.
The two candidates offered different takes, for instance, on the massacre of 11 Jews by an assault rifle-toting anti-Semite last Saturday at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, as well as on the pipe bombs sent by Trump supporter Cesar Sayoc to Democrats. Trump has been publicly targeted for personal attacks.
DeLauro didn’t blame Trump for pulling the trigger. She did blame him for playing a leading role in stirring up hatred in the country through attacks on groups like refugees (an issue that led the shooter to take action). The Anti-Defamation League reports that reported anti-Semitic incidents rose 57 percent in 2017, Trump’s first year in office.
“I believe that [Trump] is responsible for creating hate speech. That is a genie that you cannot put back in the bottle,” DeLauro said.
“The word we utter, the words we speak, the comments we make have consequences. You cannot create an environment of division and hate and of name-calling and singling out individuals and groups for commentary or derision or any other ill-meaning commentary. You can disagree with people. What we’re not and should not be doing is creating this environment of hate….
“He’s not alone in this effort. If you take a look at the van of Cesar Sayoc and the individuals Donald Trump has highlighted and denigrated, those were the paper covering of his van. In fact in that instance we have seen something that was a direct relationship between what is being said and action. Then we take a look at the slaughter in Pittsburgh and we listen to words like ‘invasion,’ ‘invaders’ [for migrants]. The language is similar. So therefore there is a direct relationship.
“You can’t body slam democracy. You can’t keep hitting against the rule of law. Creating division, name-calling, an environment of hate … Unfortunately I don’t think our president is nurturing democracy. He is not responsible for the actions. Someone else carried out the action. I think he is responsible for the climate in which these kind of hate actions can occur.”
Cadena responded that Trump himself has come under attack from opponents. And the contentious state of political debate has been “constant” throughout the U.S., he argued.
“If you don’t play a role in it things really get out of hand. He’s stating his stance on things,” Cadena argued. “He understands where the country is not producing efficiencies.”
The two also disagreed about policy solutions to crimes like the Pittsburgh massacre. DeLauro called for more gun control: a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; universal background checks; banning people on no-fly lists from purchasing guns.
Cadena, who identifies as a Second Amendment activist and has been endorsed by the NRA-style Connecticut Citizens Defense League, opposed all three ideas.
Beginning with the ban, which he argued would not prevent shooters like the Pittsburgh killer from carrying out their plans.
“It does not matter the type of weapon. If the person is willing to do the firing, we need people willing to stop them,” he said. “There’s over 100 million armed citizens in America.… We are a lot safer than in any other point in human history. And it’s because of weapons.”
He spoke of the mistakes made in placing people on the no-fly list, people who pose no threat to public safety. The bigger danger to society is having innocent people deprived of the right to bear arms, he said, not the risk of dangerous people obtaining weapons because of a lack of coordination between no-fly lists and government ownership bans.
“Guns are not the problem in this country,” Cadena argued. “We need the Second Amendment to keep society healthy.”
Then there’s Donald Trump’s decision to send U.S. troops to the border to wait for the caravan of Honduran asylum-seekers assembled 900 miles away. And his broader calls to build a security wall and now revoke the right of “birthright citizenship” to children born to undocumented immigrants.
That’s all about inventing threats and whipping up hatred to turn out the Republican base on Nov. 6, even if that means putting soldiers’ lives at risk for no security purpose, DeLauro argued. DeLauro said she backs a failed 2013 bipartisan bill that would have sped up the legal immigration process while beefing up border security.
“This is just about politics. This is about an election that is a week away from today. Folks are miles and miles and miles away form the U.S. border. Troops are going to be facing nothing. This is politics at its worst, to scare people,” DeLauro said. “People who are seeking refuge from violence and from rape, et cetera ... Keep in mind that we have a policy that says you can seek asylum in the United States. There is a process. They are not breaking any laws. They do not represent a threat. The administration [has] created a specter of a threat in the minds of people so they will go out and vote against Democrats. That is what the president’s motives are here. I know you’ve heard the talk of bringing in smallpox — which was dealt with in 1980. They declared an end to this. They’re just trying to scare people to go out and vote against Democrats.
“It is wrong. It is hateful. It in fact incites violence.”
Cadena said he opposed the 2013 bill because it didn’t provide for building a wall. He noted that the last time immigration reform passed — the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act — sponsors promised a more secure border as well as incentives that would slow the pace of immigration.
“We need a secure border. Because they failed in 1986 when [now-U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer] was trying to get the amnesty through, they gave us a half-assed border wall, a fence that deteriorated almost immediately. They wasted all that money when it could have been built properly,” Cadena remarked. “The border protections that they were proponents of were like electronic surveillance. We need a physical barrier.”
He said he supports Trump’s decision to send troops to wait for the caravan in case “they flood across the border and there’s not enough border patrol to stop them and check them in properly.”
Cadena was asked about Trump’s description of caravan members as criminals and Middle Eastern terrorists. Cadena responded that, while there may not be any evidence that the claim is true, there’s also “ no evidence that [it] isn’t.” He spoke of the need to “slow down the stream of people flowing across our border. They’re not all going to apply for asylum, because they don’t all qualify. They see America as the land of opportunity, which is great. But they’re cutting the line.”
DeLauro and Cadena disagreed on plenty else, as well: The Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”), for instance. DeLauro seeks to preserve and expand it. Cadena said he supports shoring it up in the short term but then dismantling it over the long.
But they agree on one issue: Paid family leave.
And DeLauro said she is open to hearing more about a centerpiece proposal of Cadena’s campaign: Building a new bridge from I-91 over Long Island Sound to Long Island.
Cadena’s day job gave him the idea. “I’m stuck in that traffic on I-95, that corridor, that bottleneck, every day,” he said. “It needs an outlet.”
Who would pay for it? Wouldn’t the government need to raise taxes?
Cadena said he’d support a public-private partnership, with private investors building and running the bridge but submitting to government oversight that would prevent them from gouging the public to use it, as has happened with some similar privatized transportation construction.
Cadena said he envisions an even greater transit solution to regional gridlock, a futuristic “hyperloop” that would enable people to travel at 750 miles per hour from Boston to Washington.
Meanwhile, on the ground in the 2018 quest for Congress, Cadena estimated he has “like $200” left on hand to spend in the race. Though he can’t afford to air TV commercials, he did succeed in drawing over 13,000 views to this homemade cartoon he made lampooning DeLauro, Connecticut’s U.S. senators, Elizabeth Warren ... and his own state GOP chair (for not helping him raise money).
Click on the above video to watch the interview with Angel Cadena on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven.”
Click on the above video to watch the interview with Rosa DeLauro on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven.”