Catala to challenge Soto for Democratic nomination for 39th House seat

New London -- Board of Education member Jason Catala is challenging incumbent state Rep. Chris Soto to be the Democratic candidate for the 39th District seat.

Catala announced his intention to seek the Democrat endorsement and says he is prepared to petition for a primary. His campaign documentation was certified by state election officials Monday.

Employed as an academic coach in the New Haven public school system, Catala has served seven terms on the school board and two terms on the City Council. Catala, as a Republican, made four previous unsuccessful runs at the 39th House District seat starting in the 1990s. He changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in 2013.

“I’m running because I think of all the different taxes the state is imposing. With so much taxing, at some point you're going to overburden the residents and its unfair," Catala said. “I'm also against the legalization of marijuana. I have a problem with that as a parent, an educator and as a resident of the state of Connecticut."

Catala said he opposes highway tolls, has concerns about the state's use of casino and lottery money and thinks nursing homes need more monitoring. He said he is not against medical marijuana.

A single father, Catala has an educational leadership degree from Sacred Heart University and a master's in elementary education from Eastern Connecticut State University. He said he also has school principal certification. He is the past president and current board member of New London-based Centro de la Comunidad.

He has been a polarizing figure on the Board of Education, whose members voted 5-2 recently to formally censure him. The censure was a a public reprimand for what other members said was inappropriate public comments about school employees. Catala has disputed the reasons for the reprimand.

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