Conn. Republican Logan battling U.S. Rep. Hayes in close race with national attention
In a race that has gained national attention, U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes and Republican challenger George Logan are locked in potentially the state’s closest Congressional battle of the year.
Hayes, a two-term Democratic incumbent, is trying to combat the challenge from Logan as Republicans predict that “a red wave is coming.” Republicans have been anticipating the November midterm elections, hoping to capitalize on Democratic President Joe Biden’s sluggish poll ratings and the highest inflation rate in the past four decades.
But Democrats have been working to curb the wave by criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision on abortion.
The tightness of the 5th District race was shown by an internal national Republican poll in July that pegged the battle at a 45%-45% tie, but Hayes disputes that as “an overestimation” because other polls have shown Hayes with a slight lead as the race enters the final 50 days.
Republicans have touted Logan in the category of a “young gun” in a nationally targeted race that they are trying to win. Hayes, too, has captured the attention of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is trying to hold the party’s slight majority in the U.S. House and keep Nancy Pelosi as House speaker.
The respected FiveThirtyEight website originally described the battle as a “tossup” but now predicts that Hayes is “favored to win,” based on various polling and other data.
“I want to help remove Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House,” Logan said in an interview. “I want to go down to Washington to work across the aisle to work with Democrats and Republicans to solve our common problems — inflation, crime, education, the opioid epidemic. We need to secure our southern borders. We need to support law enforcement. There is so much to do, and right now, I just don’t believe that my opponent, incumbent Congresswoman Jahana Hayes, is representing our district as well as it should be. I believe I can do a better job. ... You cannot vote 100% in line with Nancy Pelosi and then turn around and tell us you are in line with the district.”
But Hayes dismissed the concerns, saying she will push her accomplishments that include voting for gun safety, lowering prescription drug prices, helping veterans, improving transportation infrastructure, pushing for climate change improvements, funding law enforcement, and providing cities and towns with federal funding to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
“I don’t think that Nancy Pelosi is the bogeyman that they think she is,” Hayes told The Courant in an interview. “I have a record that stands alone without Nancy Pelosi. ... The Republicans have this fascination with Nancy Pelosi when they have some house cleaning themselves to do. They have a former president who is literally on the verge of indictment, and many of the Republican leaders in Congress — Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader — didn’t want to certify the election. I am running on my record, the work that I’ve done.”
As a female Democratic member of Congress, Hayes has sometimes been linked to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and other members of The Squad — a four-member group of young, often-outspoken members of Congress. Hayes posed for a photo on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in 2019 with AOC, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and Pelosi with the headline of “women shaping the future” in Congress.
But Hayes doesn’t take kindly to the association.
“Roping me into The Squad, trying to attach me to other people, that’s the way you run a campaign when you have no issues to stand on,” Hayes said. “The only reason that I’m labeled as ‘she’s a part of The Squad’ is because I’m a Black woman. Joe Courtney has a record that’s even more progressive than me. Rosa DeLauro has a record that’s even more progressive than me. But I’ve never heard anyone say Joe Courtney is a member of The Squad. I’ve never heard it. He votes like a Democrat on a lot of the very same issues.”
The controversial subject of abortion has arisen repeatedly in the race.
Logan has blasted television commercials that say he is against abortion. In fact, he says he supports abortion rights.
“I believe in a woman’s right to choose,” Logan said. “I am not extreme in my point of view when it comes to parental notification or a woman’s right to choose.”
The ads have been broadcast by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, rather than directly by the Hayes campaign. But Logan says he sees no difference.
“For me, they are one and the same,” Logan said. “She hasn’t said a word about the falseness of the ads. Talk about completely, blatant lies, and she has nothing to say about it on my stance on a woman’s right to choose? That’s what I’m talking about. She is fully in lockstep with what they’re doing. ... Ask her yourself.”
But Hayes responded that her campaign is prevented from coordinating with the DCCC as an outside group.
“Clearly, Mr. Logan doesn’t know how a federal campaign works,” Hayes said. “I had no input on the DCCC ads. I saw them the same time as everyone else. ... I have nothing to do with the DCCC. ... On abortion, I have always been of the opinion that it is between a woman and her doctor. It should not be up to government officials. Protecting that right to privacy is something that I have stood firm on. When I had the chance to vote for that with the Women’s Reproductive Health Act in Congress, I voted for it.”
A self-described moderate Republican and fiscal conservative, Logan was part of the bipartisan coalition in the state legislature in 2017 that pushed for spending and bonding caps that have led to Connecticut’s record rainy day fund for fiscal emergencies. The law passed that year provided triggers that forced the legislature to place money into the rainy day fund — rather than spending it — if personal income taxes from Wall Street stock and bond gains exceeded certain levels.
As a fiscal conservative, Logan voted in the Senate in 2019 against creating the state’s paid family and medical leave program that requires payroll deductions to fund the initiative. He also voted against raising the minimum wage and voted against various spending measures pushed by Democratic Govs. Dannel P. Malloy and Ned Lamont.
But Democrats are skeptical of Logan being a moderate. Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, a New Haven Democrat, said that Logan talked about having independent views but ended up voting with his fellow Republicans during four years in the state Senate.
“Sen. Logan was somewhat of a changeable figure when he served in the state Senate — in many cases, talking about some more moderate positions, but in the end, voting with the rest of his caucus when the chips were down,” Looney, a liberal Democrat, said in an interview. “He would vote with his caucus on most issues.”
Logan defeated 12-term Democratic incumbent Sen. Joe Crisco of Woodbridge in 2016, which led to an 18-18 tie in the Senate. He then won in a tight race in a recount in 2018 before losing to Democrat Jorge Cabrera in a rematch in 2020.
Logan, Republicans say, is their best candidate in the 5th District since then-state Sen. Andrew W. Roraback of Goshen lost in a close race to Democrat Elizabeth Esty in 2012. Roraback won 31 of the 41 towns in the district, but he lost as Esty took huge margins in Democratic strongholds like New Britain, Meriden, Waterbury and Danbury.
Hayes won elections in 2018 and 2020 by 12 points each time, including victories twice in New Britain.
Democrats have seen a major trend in their favor in the 5th District — a one-time Republican stronghold where Democrats have dominated since a young Chris Murphy defeated longtime Republican U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson in a major upset in 2006. Since then, Democrats have grown increasingly strong across the district, where Hillary Clinton and Biden defeated Republican Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020.
Besides New Britain, the sprawling, 41-town district includes the Farmington Valley and virtually all of Litchfield County to the New York and Massachusetts borders.
Republicans say they will perform well in races statewide, but Democrats disagree, having won all congressional and governor’s races since 2006. The last Connecticut Republican in Congress was U.S. Rep. Chris Shays of Bridgeport, who lost in 2008 after more than two decades in Washington.
A key city is New Britain, where Republican Mayor Erin Stewart has won a record-breaking five consecutive terms in a pro-union city where Democrats hold a 6-to-1 advantage in voter registration. Despite those odds, Republicans also made gains last year on the school board and reached a super-majority on the city council.
National Republicans have not opened an office in Connecticut in the past, officials said, showing their intent to capitalize in November on Biden’s low poll ratings.
Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel traveled to New Britain recently for the second time in the past six months to rally the troops and echo Logan’s message in reaching out to minority voters.
“As I stand here the day before the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s an exciting time here in the 5th District when we celebrate all cultures, all folks, all different ways of thinking, different backgrounds,” Logan said. “I am proud to stand here in New Britain, Connecticut, USA, as the son of Guatemalan immigrants who came to this country to live the American Dream. And today I stand here as your nominee for Congress, the U.S. House of Representatives. Isn’t America great? This is what it’s all about.”
One of the criticisms of Hayes over her four years in Congress has been that she is often difficult to reach and has not made a sustained, high-profile presence in the sprawling district that stretches from Simsbury to the New York and Massachusetts borders.
State Republican chairman Ben Proto said that the Spanish-speaking Logan is making inroads on the campaign trail.
“We’re hearing very bad things about Jahana Hayes, mostly from Democrats. She’s nowhere to be found,” Proto said. “She’s not showing up anywhere. We don’t know what she is doing, which has kind of been the knock on Jahana for a long time. ... I will give George his credit. He is everywhere. If there is a fair, he’s there. He connects very well within the total district, but the Hispanic portion of the district in particular, he has the ability to go in and talk with them, on their issues, in their language, in a way they understand better than we’ve ever been able to do before.”
But Hayes rejected the notion that she is aloof and often invisible in the district.
“I only hear it from people like Ben Proto and when there’s a campaign,” Hayes said. “I can tell you what constituents say. There are parts of this district where I’m told I’m the only person that visits frequently. I have helped people in every part of the district. I went into communities that had never seen their congressperson. ... I guess I’m flattered that Mr. Proto pays so much attention to me. But I’m doing the work of a legislator. I am in D.C. I am in the district. I’m running an official office. I’m just keeping my head down and doing the work. I trust that the people who have been touched by this office will show up on Nov. 8.”