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    Thursday, June 13, 2024

    Conn. race could determine national House congressional control

    U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., speaks to supporters at her election night event in Waterbury, Conn., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Hayes is running for reelection in Connecticut's 5th Congressional District against Republican House candidate George Logan. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
    Republican U.S. House candidate George Logan arrives for a debate against U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, in Waterbury, Conn. Logan is running for Congress in Connecticut's 5th District. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

    Among 435 elections for the U.S. House of Representatives this fall, one race in Connecticut has vaulted forward with large ramifications for both Democrats and Republicans.

    The rematch between U.S. Rep Jahana Hayes and Republican George Logan is being watched nationally as Republicans try to hold their razor-thin majority in Washington, D.C., and Democrats seek to install a new House Speaker by regaining control of the chamber. The winner in the 5th Congressional District could help swing the national balance and decide which side controls the House next year.

    That dynamic has made each side “target” the race, guaranteeing that millions of dollars will be spent both by the candidates and outside groups.

    Hayes defeated Logan by less than 1 percentage point in a squeaker in 2022, making it the eighth closest House race in the entire country, officials said. The rematch is expected to be close once again.

    “It may be the most competitive challenge race in the country,” said state Republican chairman Ben Proto. “George showed two years ago that he could win and make this very competitive. … This is clearly the best opportunity in New England for a Republican to win a Congressional seat.”

    The race was decided in 2022 by about 2,000 votes out of more than 253,000 cast, translating into less than one percentage point as Hayes went back to Congress for her third term.

    Democrats say they have an advantage in a blue state with President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy at the top of the ticket, prompting a large turnout in November that they say could sweep Hayes back into office in a tight race. Murphy says he will be campaigning hard for Hayes, whom he encouraged to run in her first race in 2018 after she was named in 2016 as the National Teacher of the Year. Democrats have won the 5th District every two years since Murphy defeated longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson of New Britain in an upset victory in 2006.

    Why doesn’t Hayes have a large lead?

    After serving six years in Washington, D.C., Hayes is essentially where she was two years ago, Proto said.

    “She hasn’t done anything to improve her position,” Proto said. “There’s a mood in the district for change, and George becomes the agent for change. … Jahana hasn’t changed her position with the electorate — whether it’s legislation, constituent work, whatever it might be. Clearly, she won in 2022 very, very close, and we’re here today with roughly the same numbers. So she hasn’t done anything to help herself get better, and George — without holding office, without running for office, without being really in the news has maintained his position. Now, he’s running, he’s in the news, he’s raised money, he’s in a full campaign, and I think that gives him the opportunity to take a very good starting position and move it forward to the finish line.”

    In tweets and emails to supporters, Hayes has countered by blasting Logan and tying him to both conservative lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and former President Donald Trump.

    Hayes criticized Logan after he declined last week to take a strong stance on the bipartisan border security bill that was negotiated partly by Murphy but was later opposed by some Republicans who were following the lead of Trump. Logan told reporters after his nominating convention in Watertown that it was a “hypothetical” question and that he would tackle the border issue on a bipartisan basis if he gets to Congress.

    “Let’s start the tally!” Hayes responded on X, formerly known as Twitter. “How many times do you think he will attempt to dodge questions this time around? The questions get harder, and voters deserve answers.”

    Trump and Biden impact

    The Trump factor is a key element in the Democratic-leaning district because Trump lost the 5th Congressional district in 2016 to Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and in 2020 to Joe Biden.

    While once seen as a strong Republican seat that was held for 12 years by Republicans John G. Rowland and Gary Franks, the merged and redrawn 5th District has been far more favorable to Democrats in recent decades. Besides the two losses by Trump, the district was won by Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, along with John Kerry in 2004 over national re-election winner George W. Bush.

    The sprawling, 41-town district now stretches from Simsbury to Salisbury to Danbury to Meriden, where Logan lives.

    Trump tops the ballot this year for Republicans as he casts a shadow over various contests down the ballot, and Logan is keenly aware of Trump’s impact.

    “Look, President Biden’s disapproval rating in the 5th Congressional District is over 50%,” Logan said when asked by The Courant. “That is the main problem that we have here. Folks are tired of the status quo, and they want a change. As far as I’m concerned, I’m focused on the 5th Congressional District. I believe folks want to see a change and a difference in Washington, and I think we can be part of that solution. That’s what’s going to bring folks out to vote.”

    Logan added, “My opponent is a rubber-stamp for President Biden. She has voted 99% of the time in line with President Biden. There’s an outside group — this isn’t my data — that ranked all of the Congress. AOC is ranked 435. My opponent is ranked 406th. She’s one of the most partisan members of Congress. Bipartisan is nothing in her vocabulary. Her actions speak for themselves. … 435 is the worst as far as being partisan, and she was 406.”

    Logan, 55, was referring to an index for 2022-23 by Georgetown University and the Lugar Center, which annually ranks lawmakers based on partisanship.

    But Hayes and her supporters have repeatedly criticized Logan for partisanship, saying he will be beholden to Trump and Republican Party leaders in Washington, D.C.

    Logan “is on record supporting election-deniers Donald Trump and Speaker Mike Johnson, along with their far-right policies that would hurt the hardworking people of this area,” Hayes said. “Depending on his audience, however, he will not acknowledge where he stands on key issues and instead dodges questions. The people of the 5th deserve a representative to Congress who will continue to work for everyone.”

    Hayes, who lives in Wolcott, is continuing her theme of linking Logan to his GOP supporters.

    “We in the Fifth District have not forgotten that this guy brought Kevin McCarthy and Elise Stefanik to Connecticut to campaign for him,” Hayes wrote previously. “George Logan is an anti-choice, Trump extremist, and I will do everything in my power to beat him yet again, so that Trump and dysfunctional House Republicans do not have an ally in the district that I call home.”


    Hayes, 51, is leading in the all-important money race, but the numbers change constantly as candidates will be raising funds at a feverish pace in the coming months.

    Hayes had twice as much cash on hand as Logan at the end of the latest public filing period in April. Hayes had raised $1.8 million and had $1.52 million in cash on hand, while Logan had raised $1.12 million and had $755,155 in cash on hand, according to public records.

    In the last cycle Logan was outraised nearly 3 to 1 in 2022 as Hayes spent $3.4 million and Logan spent $1.2 million.

    “So far, we’ve raised as much money up to this point as we did in the entire last campaign,” Logan said when asked by The Courant. “We most likely aren’t going to outspend the incumbent, but we are going to do a lot better than we did last time. … We know that the opposition is going to continue dissuading folks frankly with a lot of lies like the last election cycle. We need to make sure that we can counter that with messaging from my team, from my camp.”

    Sensing their best chance in years to gain the seat, the state Republican Party sent at least 10 campaign flyers in the mail to voters in 2022 in the district — a far higher number than usual. Some fliers did not mention Logan at all, but instead said Hayes had been “rubber stamping Nancy Pelosi’s disastrous agenda” with pictures of high-profile Democrats like Pelosi, Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, known in the political world as AOC.

    While Logan has brought high-profile leaders to the state, Hayes, too, has the ability to attract big-name leaders who bring attention to the race. Vice President Kamala Harris visited New Britain in 2022 and talked on stage with Hayes about abortion.

    “This is not a political event, but it is a fact that in 34 days there is a midterm coming up,” Harris told the crowd at the time. “The facts must be spoken.”

    At another point, Harris looked at Hayes and told the crowd: “Please send her back to Congress.”


    A former national teacher of the year, Hayes, who lives in Wolcott, battled in 2022 in her closest race yet. She won races for the seat in 2018 and 2020 by 12 points each time as Republicans fared poorly in Connecticut in the last two cycles under Trump.

    In a preview of this year’s contest, Hayes and Logan clashed in 2022 over abortion, crime, inflation, gun control, education, and the economy, among others.

    Both Hayes and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is tasked with electing Democrats, criticized Logan for declining to say if he would vote for the bipartisan border security bill that Trump opposes.

    “George Logan is taking orders from MAGA extremists like Mike Johnson who are leading the GOP push to kill efforts to reach a bipartisan solution to fix our border,” said Ellie Dougherty, a DCCC spokeswoman who is closely watching the race. “Logan won’t take a stance on the border bill because of his dangerous loyalty to Republican Party bosses.”

    While Republicans question the effectiveness of Hayes, state Democratic chairwoman Nancy DiNardo says Hayes has passed bills under Trump and Biden.

    “While George Logan has been cozying up to Donald Trump’s biggest supporter, Speaker Mike Johnson, Congresswoman Hayes has been fighting for the people of the 5th district,” DiNardo said. “She’s had bills signed into law under two administrations, including legislation to help veterans and their spouses, to fix the baby formula shortage, and to address climate change. She’s the lead Democrat on the nutrition subcommittee and a champion for helping to end child hunger and food insecurity.”

    History of close battles

    While supporters believe the 2024 race will be close, Logan is already a veteran of close contests for the state Senate.

    In 2018, Logan defeated union organizer Jorge Cabrera in a recount in a contest that Democrats thought they had won. Cabrera had been hailed as the victor by Senate Democrats, and Democrats had declared at the time that they would hold a wide majority in the state Senate. But the final tally showed that Logan won by 85 votes, up from an earlier lead of 65 votes when the recount began.

    But Cabrera then defeated Logan in a rematch in 2020, and Cabrera remains in the state Senate today.

    Republicans had repeatedly targeted the seat that had been held by Democratic Sen. Joe Crisco for 24 years, and Logan finally defeated the incumbent in 2016. The district includes Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Derby, and parts of Hamden, Naugatuck and Woodbridge.

    With months of campaigning approaching, both candidates are pledging to repeat the pattern of 2022 and participate in debates in the fall.

    Hayes told The Courant that she welcomes debates, adding, “This is when George Logan will have to answer the questions he’s been dodging.”

    Logan agreed in the same way.

    “It takes two to tango,” Logan said. “The more, the merrier.”

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