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2 Democratic Women Face Off in Connecticut for Esty’s Seat

Connecticut Democrat opted to retire after an office abuse scandal

Who will replace Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn.? Tuesday’s Democratic primary is likely to determine her successor in this open seat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Who will replace Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn.? Tuesday’s Democratic primary is likely to determine her successor in this open seat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Two women face off Tuesday in a competitive Democratic primary to fill Rep. Elizabeth Esty’s seat in Connecticut’s 5th District. 

Mary Glassman, a former local elected official in suburban Hartford, has the state party’s endorsement. But Jahana Hayes, a former national teacher of the year, received enough support at the party convention to qualify for the primary ballot 

Esty announced in April that she wouldn’t seek a fourth term after coming under criticism for her handling of a former chief of staff who harassed and threatened a female staffer. After a narrowly winning the seat in 2012, Esty coasted in her two subsequent re-elections, though Hillary Clinton only carried the district by 4 points in 2016. 

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the general election Solid Democratic, so Tuesday’s Democratic primary winner will be heavily favored in November. Three Republicans are vying for the party nod — businessman Rich DuPont, retired college professor Ruby Corby-O’Neill and former Meriden Mayor Manny Santos, who has the state GOP endorsement.  

Watch: No More Blue Wave Metaphors, 2018 Is About Too Many GOP Fires

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While Glassman and Hayes have very similar policy views, they bring diverse backgrounds to the table.

Glassman has touted her eight terms as the first selectman of Simsbury, a suburb of Hartford, but has denied being a so-called  establishment politician. Hayes, during a debate last week in Newtown, reminded voters that Glassman left her position as Simsbury’s top elected official over a pay-cut dispute.

Glassman won the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement Monday, a rare weigh-in from the traditionally conservative group. 

“She has a clear vision to champion free trade, develop a sound immigration policy, fix America’s crumbling infrastructure, and support students from classroom to career,” Ken Johnson, director of Public and Congressional Affairs for the Chamber, said in a statement.

Hayes decided to run at the encouragement of Connecticut’s junior senator, Democrat Christopher S. Murphy. A Waterbury public schools administrator, she is running on an anti-establishment platform, saying her lack of political experience may be her greatest asset.

“I am not so far removed from the concerns of the people of this community that I will forget about you when I go to Washington,” she told delegates at the Connecticut Democratic Party convention in May, the Hartford Courant reported.

Hayes also spoke of her journey from teen mom — attending college at night and working during the day — to being named the 2016 National Teacher of the Year.

“The lesson that I learned from living in the margins is that you know what it feels like and you don’t wish that on anyone,” she told delegates.

Glassman came after Hayes for her out-of-state campaign money in last week’s debate, The (Danbury) News-Times reported.

“My campaign has raised 85 percent of my contributions right here in Connecticut and my opponent has received 35 percent of her money from in-state,” Glassman said, also noting that Hayes accepted money from a church that does not support gay marriage.

Hayes responded that while she supports gay marriage, she does not plan to return the donations.

Hayes has outraised the other candidates in the race, according to Federal Election Commission records, bringing in $461,000 through July 25, the end of the pre-primary reporting period, to Glassman’s $457,000. 

“The fact that I am able to inspire people from across the country shows that people are listening,” she said at last week’s debate. “It was hard work, but this is what innovators do — and it is evidence of what I can do as a legislator.”

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