HARTFORD (AP) — Two Democrats and three Republicans are vying for the opportunity to fill Connecticut’s only open congressional seat in this year’s election.
It’s a scenario that was unthinkable a year ago, when many believed Democratic U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty likely would win a fourth term representing the 5th Congressional District.
But the outspoken advocate of the #MeToo movement was criticized for how she handled the firing of a former chief of staff accused of harassment in her Washington, D.C. office, including by top members of her own party. In April, Esty abruptly announced she wouldn’t seek re-election.
While Democrats are confident the seat will remain in their hands after the November election, Republicans are hopeful voter frustration with Connecticut’s ongoing fiscal woes will help the GOP’s ultimate nominee.
A look at where things stand in Tuesday’s primary:
Much of the attention on the 5th District race has so far focused on the two Democrats, former Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman and Wolcott educator Jahana Hayes.
Glassman, who narrowly won the party’s endorsement in May, is considered the political veteran of the race, having run for lieutenant governor twice in the past. Hayes, a political newcomer and the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, has pitched herself as an outsider. She has sparked a lot of attention, and campaign contributions, from outside of the state.
If elected, she’d be the first black woman elected to Congress from Connecticut.
“I’ve been asked to run for elected office many times,” the educator from Wolcott said in a recent WVIT-TV debate. “I’m not a perennial candidate. I’ve always said no. But I think this seat at this time provides a unique opportunity to bring us back to our moral center as a country.”
Hayes said there’s an “appetite for change” among voters and that she’s been able to “inspire a nation” with her candidacy.
Glassman argues her experience, which includes working on public policy when she was chief of staff to former Lt. Gov. Kevin Sullivan, will be beneficial in Congress. An attorney who served as first selectman from 1991 to 1999 and from 2007 to 2014, she said she’s balanced budgets and brought people together to solve problems.
“I am not an insider, I’ve never served in Washington,” she said. “I’ve just served my community.”
While both Glassman and Hayes have criticized President Donald Trump on the campaign trail, the three GOP contenders in the 5th District race have praised the Republican leader.
The trio includes insurance analyst and former Meriden Mayor Manny Santos, the party’s endorsed candidate; retired Southbury university professor Ruby Corby O’Neill; and Watertown manufacturing consultant Rich Dupont. They’re hoping their conservative message, coupled with frustration over the state’s fiscal woes, will resonate with voters in this western Connecticut district, which state GOP Chairman JR Romano has called “a pure toss-up.”
“His policies are dead on,” Santos recently told WFSB-TV, referring to Trump. “I think when you look at the economy, there’s no arguing that our economy is doing a lot better,”
Both Santos and Corby O’Neill are immigrants; Santos is from Portugal and Corby O’Neill is from Honduras. They both support Trump’s stance on stronger border security. Dupont takes the same position as well.
Corby O’Neill has called for a greater focus on the opioid crisis, including improved transportation access to rehab programs, while Dupont has pitched himself as a businessman who will push to grow the economy and put people in the district back to work.
So far, the two Democrats have far outpaced the three Republicans when it comes to fundraising.
Hayes leads the pack, so far amassing more than $461,000 as of July 25, with Glassman following close behind. Hayes, however, had more than twice as much cash left to spend compared to Glassman.
Among the Republicans, Corby O’Neill is in the fundraising lead, with $120,523 in total receipts. That includes an $81,300 loan she made to her campaign. She’s followed by Dupont, who raised $92,865 and Santos, who reporting having accumulated $25,859. But Santos also reported having less than $500 in cash to spend, after accounting for his campaign’s current debt.