HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A former National Teacher of the Year defeated a veteran politician on Tuesday in the Democratic primary for a U.S. House seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, who agreed not to seek re-election amid criticism over her mishandling of a sexual harassment case in her Washington office.
Wolcott educator Jahana Hayes, who won the national award in 2016, topped former Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman, a two-time lieutenant governor candidate. If she wins the general election in November, Hayes, 45, will be the first black woman to win a Connecticut congressional seat.
A Democratic primary was unthinkable a year ago, when many observers believed Esty would likely win a fourth term. But the outspoken advocate of the #MeToo movement abruptly announced in April she wouldn’t seek re-election after facing heavy criticism and calls for her resignation over how she handled the firing of a former chief of staff accused of harassment. Esty has said she regrets not moving along an internal investigation into the 2016 allegations, which ultimately revealed more widespread allegations of abuse.
Hayes and Glassman had a tough fight for the party’s endorsement earlier this year. Since then, Hayes’ personal story of finding success after being a teenage mother has helped to garner significant out-of-state financial support and endorsements from labor and progressive organizations.
Hayes said there’s an “appetite for change” among voters.
“I’ve been asked to run for elected office many times,” Hayes 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.”
Recent campaign finance filings show Hayes leading Glassman and the three Republican primary candidates in campaign fundraising.
Hayes has run TV ads featuring footage of former President Barack Obama awarding her the national teacher of the year honor.
Hayes has pledged to fight to save the public education system, saying that education saved her life. She also has promised to bridge the “equity gap” that exists in the 5th Congressional District, which borders New York and has been considered one of the state’s more politically diverse with its mix of farm towns and urban centers. She said she’ll fight racism, xenophobia, classism and sexism.
In April, Esty abruptly announced she wouldn’t seek re-election. She made the announcement days after apologizing for not protecting her employees from the male ex-chief of staff.
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