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Retired professor mounts GOP challenge to Connecticut Democrat DeLauro

Lesley DeNardis
Lesley DeNardis for Congress
Lesley DeNardis

Republican Lesley DeNardis announced Tuesday that she is running against Connecticut Democratic U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro in this year's election, in an attempt to become the first GOP member to hold the 3rd District seat since her father in the early 1980s.

The retired political science professor, of Hamden, cited voters' “frustration and disappointment” with elected officials in Washington, particularly over rising gas and food prices, increasing crime and government mandates.

“We have one-party control in Congress and an entrenched incumbent who has been in office for over 30 years,” DeNardis said in a statement, referring to DeLauro. “She no longer understands or is in touch with the concerns of Connecticut residents. We need new representation in our district. It is time for a change.”

DeLauro was first elected to the New Haven-area congressional seat in 1990 and is now chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Asked to respond to DeNardis' comments, DeLauro said in a statement, “I look forward to running for reelection, and I’m looking forward to getting the support of the people of Connecticut.”

DeNardis' father, Lawrence DeNardis, who died in 2018, was the last Republican to hold the seat in the now heavily Democratic 3rd District, winning one term in 1980 as Ronald Reagan was elected president. He lost in both 1982 and 1984 to Democrat Bruce Morrison, and later served as president of the University of New Haven.

DeLauro said Lawrence DeNardis gave her one of her first jobs, teaching a course on international politics in the 1960s at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, where he was a professor and department chair. “I will always be grateful for that,” she said.

Also running against DeLauro is Libertarian candidate Amy Chai, a medical doctor.

Republicans have not held a House seat in Connecticut since former Rep. Chris Shays lost the 4th District race in 2008 to current Democratic Rep. Jim Himes. The GOP this year has been targeting Democratic Reps. Jahana Hayes in the 5th District and Joe Courtney in the 2nd District.

In the 4th District, Republican Jayme Stevenson, former first selectwoman of Darien, recently announced she was running against Himes.

Lesley DeNardis has been active in local politics in Hamden, serving on the Legislative Council after holding seats on the school board and planning and zoning commission.

She recently retired from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, where she taught political science and directed the school's polling. She has been working as a real estate agent.

Her campaign site says she favors “limited government, economic freedom, individual liberty, and opportunity for all.”

DeLauro has touted her work on behalf of families, women and children, including continuing efforts to raise the minimum wage, provide paid family and medical leave, obtain equal pay for women and expand the child tax credit.

“This week, I am leading negotiations on legislation to support President (Volodymyr) Zelensky and the people of Ukraine,” she said in her statement Tuesday. “I am also negotiating a funding package that helps working families with the cost of living, creates American jobs, helps small businesses, and makes health care more affordable.”

Sacred Heart University is the licensee of WSHU Public Radio.

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