MERIDEN — Former Meriden Mayor Manny Santos won the Republican primary in the 5th Congressional District Tuesday, beating out rivals Ruby Corby O’Neill and Richard Dupont.
“The voters of the district have clearly decided that what’s needed to go up against the opposition is someone like me, someone whose done this before,” Santos said, declaring victory in front of supporters around 10:10 p.m.
“They also understand that a win for Republicans in this state is also a win for the people of this state,” he said. Santos was the only of the three contenders with previous experience in elected office.
Santos will now face Democrat Jahana Hayes, the 2016 national teacher of the year who also won her party’s endorsement Tuesday night.
Santos was the first Republican to enter the race, announcing his run for the office in February, seeking then to challenge U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, a Democrat.
The field quickly became crowded when Esty announced in April that she would not be seeking re-election. That decision was made as she faced criticism resulting from her handling of complaints of threats and abuse against her former chief of staff.
Dupont is known for his work as president of Resource Development Associates and as a consultant for the Northwest Regional Workforce Development Board, under both of which he sought to advance manufacturing and education in the state. He also ran a manufacturing program at Housatonic Community College.
O’Neill also has a background in education, having worked as a psychology professor before retiring in 2013.
While Santos said he is thankful for all of the support he has received, the real challenge lies ahead as he looks forward to running against his Democratic opponent.
“This wasn’t a very easy battle and, in fact, this is only the scrimmage in the overall battle,” he said. “The battle, after all, is in November and that’s where we have to win.
“It’s going to take every one of you, just like we did for the primary, to come out and support and spend your time,” he continued. “It’s well worth it, I believe it’s well worth it for this state, for this district and indeed for this nation.”
Cook Political Report initially shifted the district from a “solid Democrat” rating to “likely Democrat” after Esty’s scandal, but switched the race back to “solid Democrat” ahead of Tuesday night’s primaries.
Former U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson was the last Republican to hold the seat, losing it in the 2006 election to Christopher Murphy. Murphy held the seat until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2012, at which time Esty won her first term.
Republican Rob Simmons also lost his 2nd Congressional District seat in 2006, and Christopher Shays was voted out of office just two years later. Republicans have not had a seat in Connecticut’s Congressional delegation in 10 years.
The 5th District was the only U.S. House District in the state to have primaries for either party Tuesday night.