Jahana Hayes may become the first African American woman Connecticut has ever sent to Congress after pulling off a landslide upset in Tuesday night’s primary.
According to vote totals from the New York Times, Hayes easily won the Democratic primary for the state’s 5th Congressional District, defeating opponent Mary Glassman by 25 points. Hayes won nearly 10,000 more votes than Glassman in the district, which U.S. Census data shows is 82 percent white. If she defeats Republican nominee Manny Santos in November, Hayes will be the first non-white person serving in all of New England’s Congressional delegation.
The fact that Jahana Hayes was able to win, and do so by such a large margin, is especially remarkable when considering all of the groups that endorsed Glassman’s campaign. In addition to having the endorsement of both Democratic establishment groups like the Connecticut Democratic Party, with MoveOn.org (and, puzzlingly, the endorsement of the Central Connecticut chapter of pro-Bernie Sanders group Our Revolution despite Glassman’s lack of support for single-payer healthcare), Glassman had the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. As The Intercept pointed out, the U.S. Chamber — the largest corporate lobbying group in Washington — very rarely backs Democrats, let alone in primaries.
In fact, perhaps the only institutional support Hayes had was from Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), who encouraged her to run due to a lack of black representation in the New England delegation. However, Sen. Murphy declined to make an outright endorsement in the Democratic primary for the 5th Congressional District, which was left open after former Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Connecticut) resigned for keeping an aide accused of sexual harassment on her payroll.
Hayes ran on a progressive platform of implementing a living wage for all workers, moving toward a single-payer healthcare system, strong new gun reform laws (her district includes Newtown, where 20 children were killed in a 2012 school shooting), and strengthening public education. As the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, Hayes is particularly passionate about public education, and is calling for an end to diverting public dollars to private schools.
Even with Glassman attracting so many endorsements from the Democratic establishment, progressive groups, and pro-business groups, Hayes was still able to out-raise her in the final stretch of the primary campaign. Federal Election Commission records show she had raised more than $461,000 as of July 25 to Glassman’s $457,234. Hayes is well-equipped to run a vigorous general election campaign, with more than $350,000 in cash on hand, compared to GOP nominee Santos’ minuscule haul of $1,579.
(EDITOR’S NOTE, 8/15/18, 4:27 PM ET: This article was updated to state that Sen. Chris Murphy encouraged Hayes to run for the office, and to explain why Elizabeth Esty, the district’s previous representative, resigned.)
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.