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Connecticut’s 5th district congressional race draws national attention

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris talks about the Biden administration’s commitment to protecting women’s reproductive rights at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain on Oct. 6th 2022
Ebong Udoma
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris talks about the Biden administration’s commitment to protecting women’s reproductive rights at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain on October 5, 2022. She used the event to shore up support for the reelection of U.S. Representative Jahana Hayes, the incumbent Democrat in the state's 5th congressional district.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris was in New Britain for an abortion rights event on Wednesday. Her visit brought national attention to Connecticut’s 5th district congressional race.

The district has the most competitive congressional race in the state this year.

It spans across Litchfield, Fairfield, New Haven and Hartford counties, and includes rural western parts of the state and some cities including New Britain and parts of Waterbury. It’s the least Democratic district in a state that has an all-Democratic congressional delegation. The seat is occupied by two-term incumbent Jahana Hayes (D-CT).

At the event at Central Connecticut State University, Vice President Harris sought support for Hayes. “It’s so wonderful to be with the congresswoman. And please send her back to Congress,” she urged the audience.

Harris focused on the Biden administration’s commitment to protecting women’s reproductive rights. It might be difficult to do if Republicans take control of Congress, she said. “This is not a political event. But it is a fact that in 34 days there is a midterm coming up. And facts must be spoken,” she said.

Former Republican state senator George Logan, is Hayes' challenger. Women’s reproductive rights are not an issue in Connecticut because the Roe v. Wade decision has been codified into state law, he said.

“I support a woman’s right to choose as long as it is safe, fair and legal. And that has been my stance as a former state senator and as a future congressman. And I support Connecticut’s laws when it comes to a woman’s reproductive rights and I will be consistent in my stance down in Washington,” Logan pledged.

Concerns about unsecured borders, the economy and crime are the big issues in the district, he said.

“I believe that supporting law enforcement is what we need here in the 5th congressional district. I will go to Washington and vote for bills that support our law enforcement,” he said, after an event with law enforcement at police headquarters in New Britain on Tuesday.

“We can actually secure our U.S. Mexico border, and make our cities here in Connecticut and across the United States safer and that starts with sending George Logan to Washington,” said U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil (R-WI), a top House Republican involved in the drafting of the GOP’s midterm agenda called “Commitment to America” who joined Logan at the event.

Hayes argues abortion rights are an issue in Connecticut and across the country. “Because even if it's settled law in Connecticut, if there is a national abortion ban in this system that we operate, Connecticut is a part of the Untied States of America, and our rights in Connecticut go out the window,” she said.

Logan would support the House GOP’s “Commitment to America” agenda, she said.

“The only reason we were able to pass the women’s reproductive health in Congress is because we had a pro-choice Democratic majority,"Hayes said." So one person cannot change the opinion of a caucus where 166 people I think last time signed on to legislation that would do just that and have a national ban."

Hayes, who is married to a Waterbury police detective, is committed to funding police.

The campaign I have been running is about my work. It's about what I have delivered for people and what I would like to continue doing. You can’t do that in this district by just appeasing Democrats or one constituency group. I have small towns. I have urban centers. I have farm and rural communities. I have suburban communities. So if I stray from the issues I’m doing myself a disservice. I can’t win without that.” she said.

The present 5th district seat was created after Connecticut lost a congressional seat following the 2000 census. It's never been held by a Republican.

And now with about a month to go before the midterms, the Cook Political Report rates the district as leaning Democrat by two points.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.