DANBURY — A career prosecutor vying to become the first Republican in 14 years to represent Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District tried to portray Democratic U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes as a surrogate of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during a Monday night debate.
But Hayes called the criticism from GOP challenger David X. Sullivan a willful misrepresentation of her record and support for bipartisan politics.
“I unify people, I bring them together and I am not asking people to choose sides,” said Hayes during the debate, engineered by media arts students at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury. “I am not trying to scare people by saying ‘your suburbs are going to be invaded,’ because whether it has to do with health care, or the economy or schools or social unrest or jobs or immigration, I will listen to all perspectives because I am a collaborator.”
Sullivan, a former assistant U.S. attorney for 30 years until his retirement last summer, said he was a law-and-order candidate who would battle what he called “the extreme far left” represented by Hayes.
“I got into this race to campaign against Jahana Hayes and to fight a war against socialism, but I have amended that — it’s a war against Marxism,” said Sullivan, during the first of four debates planned for October. “Connecticut is suffering economically…and people want a congressman who comes back and listens to them.”
Monday’s debate came on the same day that Hayes was scheduled to be retested for the coronavirus, after spending 14 days quarantining in her Wolcott home with a COVID-19 infection.
“Wearing masks has become so political,” said Hayes, who was not the only Washington, D.C., incumbent getting over a case of coronavirus. President Donald Trump was on his way back to the White House to finish convalescing after a weekend stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center with a case of COVID-19. “Our leaders have to be models and examples because we need to keep people healthy and safe.”
Sullivan said his coronavirus priority would not only be the health of residents in northwestern and central Connecticut, but also safely reopening the economy.
“In Connecticut we’ve done a good job (of wearing masks) in public places where it is paramount,” Sullivan said. “We have to get to the other side of this until we have a vaccine, and the people who are most at risk … need to self-isolate.”
The coronavirus crisis headlined the debate between Hayes, Sullivan and a minor party candidate from Newtown who is trying to shake up the two-party system by an announcing an unfunded campaign, 60 days before the Nov. 3 election.
“I don’t have a party dictating to me party positions, and I don’t have to step in line or incur their wrath,” said Bruce Walczak, a relocation consultant, running on the Independent Party line. “That kind of partisan party voting gets in the way of finding and seeking out the best and most likely solutions to our problems.”
The race to represent residents of Greater Danbury and the 5th District is considered the only competitive congressional race in a state with an all-Democratic congressional delegation.
Even, so, leading election forecasters say Hayes is favored to win reelection. For one thing, Hayes has raised $1 million more than Sullivan as the race reaches its most expensive phase.
At stake for Republicans is a chance to break into Connecticut’s all-Democratic delegation and take back a seat the GOP lost in 2006 to now-Sen. Chris Murphy. Republicans thought they had that chance in the 2018 midterm elections, when a scandal over a botched harassment complaint forced three-term Democrat Elizabeth Esty to give up re-election.
But out of Waterbury came Hayes, the 2016 national Teacher of the Year, who got on donors’ radar after trouncing an establishment Democrat in the primary. Hayes went on to take 60 percent of the vote in November.