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DC Buzz: Visions of Jahana

November 29, 2018

Teaching is in Representative-elect Jahana Hayes’ DNA. And even though she’s leaving the Waterbury public school system behind after about 13 years, the classroom experience will accompany her to D.C. as she begins her first term in Congress.

It was there with her during orientation for all new incoming House members. On Day One, she observed Republican freshmen filing in one direction, Democratic freshmen in another.

“I thought ‘what a missed opportunity,’” she said in an interview Tuesday. “For the first time when we’re gathering, you want everyone to meet everyone. That’s how I think as a teacher.”

Hayes, of course, got a boost in the public eye after President Barack Obama named her teacher of the year for 2016.

Inclusiveness. Respect. Listening. Learning. Nice concepts for the halls of school but perhaps easier said than done in the halls of Congress.

But Hayes is nothing if not determined. You’d have to be to go from public assistance in public housing to teen motherhood to a college degree financed in part by work at multiple jobs, including Southbury Training School and St. Mary’s Hospital.

What congressional committee is her first choice? No brainer there: Education and the Workforce.

“I think it would be a great use of my skills,” she said. But if not, “any committee assignment would benefit the people in my district, whether it’s small business, infrastructure or agriculture.”

Nevertheless, “my passion and my heart definitely are in education.”

With four children back in Connecticut ranging in ages from 10 to 29, the commute to D.C. and back home to Wolcott for weekends will not be easy.

But the kids and husband Milford Hayes, a Waterbury police detective, are with the program — and Mom is never more than a phone call away.

“It exemplifies what modern families look like,” she said. “I am just so grateful and appreciative to be able to convey to my children they have a mom who can work hard, and show them they can do whatever they want.”

Right now, Hayes says she is suffering a bit of sticker shock at the high price of D.C. apartments.

The good news? She won’t be sleeping in her office, as a number of House members do on weekdays when Congress is in session.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is ready to re-up as House Speaker, and no one in Congress is likely more relieved than Rep. Jim Himes.

He quietly campaigned for a “new generation of leadership” to take the place of Pelosi, 78, and the rest of her aging team.

It was always going to be a tightrope act for Himes. At age 52, Himes may not be young in some people’s minds. But on Capitol Hill, he’s practically still a Boy Scout.

He did a good job of covering himself in the leadership mantle of the New Democrat Coalition, a group for party centrists that interviewed perspective nominees — including Pelosi — after Democrats won back the House on Election Day. Whatever misgivings he had about Pelosi were tempered by the understanding that if she won, she alone would appoint committee chairs. And that included the one coveted by Himes, the all-important House intelligence committee.

But as the clocked ticked down to a party vote for speaker on Wednesday, Himes went on CNN to declare himself in Pelosi’s corner after all. The anchor asked him about the accuracy of a Connecticut Post story saying Himes wanted to be chair of House intel “in place” of Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the current senior Democrat on the committee and all-but-anointed in the media as incoming chairman.

“No, that’s not correct,” said Himes, half laughing and half tut-tutting. “Not ‘instead of.’”

Himes went on to say what a pal Schiff is and how fine a chairman he would be. But, he added, “as second-ranking Democrat on the committee, were the opportunity to arise, I would like it.”

He assured the CNN anchor: “This is not some Machiavellian attempt to change the leadership of the committee.”

So Himes remains in the wings, the clock still ticking. I mentioned to him a few weeks ago that the “new generation” in waiting was comparable to Prince Charles of England, next in line to the throne at age 70 with no sign of Queen Elizabeth slowing down at 92.

“I hadn’t thought of it that way,” he laughed.

dan@hearstdc.com

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