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Viral Video Vaults Jahana Hayes Onto National Stage

U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn.
Courtesy of Jahana Hayes for U.S. Congress
Jahana Hayes, candidate for the 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House.

A liberal social media company has helped propel a first-time candidate for Congress in Connecticut to national attention. A video introducing Waterbury educator and 2016 national Teacher of the Year, Jahana Hayes, has gone viral with more than 5.5 million views since its release last Thursday.

The video, shared by the liberal news company NowThis, is called “Truth to Power.”

It's had 5 million views and 92,000 shares on Facebook, and 494,000 views on Twitter since Saturday when it was posted by NowThis. Hayes says she was hoping for a buzz, but this is exceptional.

“I mean there was no donation link or anything, it was just to introduce myself. I think people from all over the country were reaching out to the friends and family in Connecticut saying, ‘Have you seen this candidate? Have you heard of her?’ And it really did exactly what it was supposed to do, and that was to introduce me to people.”

She says now there are donations pouring into her campaign from all over the country.

“I think it’s good for me because most other states have already had their primaries and there is a finite amount of money in this 5th District, and we have so many people running.”

UConn Political Scientist Ron Schurin says he’s not surprised by the buzz.

“Well, there are a couple of races around the country that just seem to attract national interest, such as the race in New York where an insurgent defeated incumbent Congressman Crowley. Maybe this is one of them. And again this speaks to the level of enthusiasm about the race, and perhaps to the quality of the video.”

Hayes is facing Party-endorsed candidate former Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman in the August 14th Democratic primary for the open seat. Glassman already has a campaign ad running on local TV.  

The Connecticut 5th District seat opened up after outgoing Democratic Representative Elizabeth Esty abruptly announced she would not seek re-election after she admitted mishandling a sexual harassment complaint against her former chief of staff. Republicans hoped this could create an opportunity for them to pick up a seat in Connecticut. But Schurin says the Democrats are outraising the Republicans.

“Well here in Connecticut, as in some other parts of the country – maybe across the country – there’s a high level of enthusiasm on the Democratic side. Whether this will translate into victories in November, we’ll have to see.”

In the latest financial filing with the Federal Election Commission, Republican Party-endorsed former Meriden Mayor Manny Santos had raised about $28,000 for his campaign. His challenger with the most money, Ruby Corby O’Neill, reported about $111,000, with $81,000 being money she had loaned her own campaign.

Meanwhile, Glassman reported raising about $380,000, while Hayes had raised about $300,000.

The financial reporting period ended June 30, just before the NowThis video had been seen millions of times over the internet.

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.