Unchallenged in their party
Riding a surge of renewed political engagement, a host of challengers have unseated or produced nail-biting races for congressional incumbents in 2018 primaries.
That trend has skipped Connecticut.
The state is home to three members of Congress who have enjoyed some of the longest tenures in office without a primary challenger from their party.
U.S. Rep Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut’s 3rd District has not participated in a primary since she was first elected to Congress in 1990. DeLauro is tied with U.S. Rep Nita Lowey of New York for going the most years without a primary opponent of any member of Congress in the nation, according to a New York Times analysis.
U.S. Reps. John Larson, Joe Courtney and Jim Himes have not had in-party challengers in a decade or more.
In fact, none of the Connecticut congressional delegation has faced a Democratic rival on primary night while in their current office. They attributed their continued support to their work in Washington and their district.
In nearly three decades, the closest thing DeLauro has had to a Democratic opponent came this year. Milford Alderman Bryan Anderson declared in September 2017 that he would run for DeLauro’s seat, before she announced she would seek re-election. In April 2018, months before the August primary, he folded his campaign.
Noting that many House Republicans are not seeking re-election, Anderson withdrew “to give the Democrats and Rosa the best chance possible this year,” he said Saturday.
“If the Democrats are able to take the House, she will chair the Appropriations Subcommittee for health, education, labor and personnel,” Anderson said. “She should have the opportunity to be chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee. Hopefully the district will benefit if she is chair.”
DeLauro said she is proud Democrats and Republicans keep electing her.
“I have been fortunate to have received the highest percentage of the vote compared with every winning Connecticut candidate for federal office, House and Senate in the last six elections over 10 years,” she said in a statement. “I hope that means that the people of the 3rd Congressional District respect how hard I work for them.”
Also high on the national list of representatives who have passed long stretches without primaries are Larson and Courtney of Connecticut’s 1st and 2nd Districts, respectively.
Larson has not had a Democratic challenge since he was first elected to Congress in 1998. He is tied for third longest stretch without a primary, the New York Times found.
Larson said he’s been unopposed because he has maintained his roots in the district and gets political results.
“I’ve lived in the same house in East Hartford for the past 35-plus years and my kids grew up in town, just like I did,” Larson said in a statement. “I still shop at Padula’s on Franklin Avenue in Hartford and catch up with friends over a ‘chili dog’ at Augie and Ray’s in East Hartford.”
Courtney has not seen a primary challenge since 2006, when he won his seat. He ties for fifth longest without an in-party challenge in the nation, the Times reported.
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut’s 4th District has not participated in a primary since he was first elected in 2008. Elizabeth Esty, who represents the 5th District in the U.S. House, did not have a primary challenge after she won her seat in 2012.
A Democratic primary for her seat did occur in 2018, when Esty decided not to seek re-election after an alleged abuse scandal in her office.
Meanwhile across the country, at least five Republicans and two Democrats lost their seats to primary opponents in 2018.
“If you look at the upstart campaigns — (Ayana) Pressley in Boston and (Alexandria) Ocasio(-Cortez) in New York and elsewhere — it certainly is encouragement to me that so many who are looking to challenge the status quo have found some degree of success,” said Anderson. “I take comfort in that.”