5th District Voters look for edge between Hayes, Glassman

July 29, 2018

With just over two weeks until the Aug. 14 primary, Democrats packed yet another town hall to hear from the candidates vying to represent the 5th Congressional District.

Once again, there was no clear front runner between the party endorsed candidate Mary Glassman, and her primary challenger Jahana Hayes during a debate at Edmund Town Hall in Newtown Sunday afternoon, leaving many voters at a loss for who will earn their support.

“On the one hand, Mary has all this experience, but on the other hand, generally I think the Democrats need some new blood, so that’s where some of my being torn comes from,” said Susan Kassirer, of Sandy Hook, who made it to the debate despite a car breakdown on the way.

“Basically, I think it’s important to vote for the one that’s going to win,” Kassirer said, “Never have I felt so strongly that we have to elect a Democrat, and it’s because of what’s going on in Washington.”

Kassirer, who said she is still undecided about who to vote for, is part of a wave of Democrats getting involved in politics for the first time. She joined the Newtown Democratic Town Committee a year ago as a direct response to the results of the 2016 presidential election.

Her friend, Lisa Schwartz, of Newtown, described herself as a “political junkie” and said she’s been attending events like Sunday’s debate for over 25 years.

Never, Schwartz said, has she seen a packed political event on a sunny Sunday afternoon at the end of July. It was standing room only as more than 150 people crowded into Town Hall for the hour-long debate.

“Normally, I don’t think we’d have this kind of showing,” Schwartz said. “It’s really amazing.”

Newtown DTC chairman Eric Paradis moderated the debate, asking questions collected from voters through an online survey. On education, gun control, health care, and social issues like marriage equality, there was little to differentiate Glassman and Hayes, who despite vastly different backgrounds have mostly aligned on the issues.

While the matchup has often drawn rowdy crowds and deafening applause at previous debates, it was hard to tell whose answers impressed the most, as the crowd was kept quiet by the moderator.

Glassman, a two-time candidate for lieutenant governor who had two multi-term tenures as Simsbury’s first selectman, impressed audience members with her political experience.

“When you have someone who builds collaborations, builds partnerships, has a record of respect, a record of integrity, a record of getting things done, you know I can represent you and fight for you in Washington, because I’ve done it every day for the past 25 years,” Glassman said.

Hayes, the Waterbury school district’s talent and professional development supervisor who left the classroom after being named the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, detailed her experience outside of politics and the ways it would help her in Congress.

“You’re going to hear a lot about experience and what experience looks like, but what I want to tell you is that there are different ways of gaining invaluable experience,” Hayes said, detailing her work implementing new curriculum in Waterbury, traveling the country and advocating for education reform.

Democrats were forced to scramble in early April when three-term incumbent Elizabeth Esty announced she would not run for re-election after she made headlines for mishandling an office-abuse scandal involving her former chief of staff.

The 5th District, which stretches from Bethel to the Massachusetts border and from western-most Connecticut to the central part of the state, represents Republicans’ best chance to break into Connecticut’s all-Democratic Washington delegation.

“No matter who wins (the primary), I’m going to be 100 percent behind that person,” Schwartz said. “It’s such an interesting dynamic, because never have we really had two singular contenders ... Why can’t one of them be running for governor or something.”

kkrasselt@hearstmediact.com; 203-842-2563; @kaitlynkrasselt

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