Monthly Archives: July 2018

Interviews with the Democratic Primary Candidates for U.S. Congress: Mary Glassman and Jahana Hayes

Fifth Congressional District 

Mary Glassman and Jahana Hayes are competing in the primary election to be the Democratic Party nominee for Congress from the Fifth Congressional District (Sherman, its surrounding towns, New Britain, Waterbury and Torrington).

The 5th C.D. is historically Republican, but has been trending Democratic since 2004. It has an unusually high percentage of voters registered as independents. The seat became vacant when Democratic incumbent Elizabeth Esty decided not to seek reelection after being criticized for her handling of sexual harassment allegations against her former chief of staff. Control of the entire House could turn on the outcome of this race.

Glassman very narrowly won the Party’s nomination at a tempestuous convention in May, but Hayes decided to take the decision to the voters. The winner will run in the November general election against a Republican candidate who will also be selected in August.

The SDTC Newsletter interviewed both candidates, Glassman in person on July 2, Hayes by telephone on July18.

The Interviews

The interviews explored three inter-related questions:

  • Why would you be a strong candidate in the general election?
  • What are your positions on a variety of issues?
  • Why and how you would be effective in Congress?



Mary Glassman was born and raised in the 5th Congressional District. “I am a public servant. I don’t sit behind a desk, I build relationships,” she told a Washington, CT audience. “That is what we do every day. We are the ones that plow the roads, pick up the garbage.”

Glassman is a graduate of the University of Connecticut and UConn School of Law. She was First Selectwoman of Simsbury from 1991-99 and 2007-14, Special Counsel to the Speaker of the CT House, and Counsel to the Senate President. She has twice run for Lieutenant Governor. She currently works for the Capital Region Education Council. She is married, and has three children.

The Interview

Question: Looking forward to the November election, what makes you a strong candidate?

What makes me a strong candidate is my experience of living my entire life in the Fifth District and building relationships in the District. I can hit the ground running.

I understand local government. I know how to get results. I bring the tools needed in Washington. This race is about people believing you can deliver results – education, manufacturing, transportation, economic opportunity, health care, protecting Medicare.  People can see what I’ve done in the public sector, not just what I say.

Question: What is your broad strategy?

How do you think about your constituency and the major issues?

The Fifth C.D. is a complicated district — a mix of older and younger people, white and people of color. We need to see ourselves as a region and to have a comprehensive plan. We have to bring Washington money for our needs in job training, transportation, gun safety, higher education, incubating technology, and keeping our young people. The Fifth C.D. needs to give everyone an equal opportunity. I am committed to getting results, and have the ability to go to Congress and be effective on day one.

The challenge is that it is a big district. I need to make sure the rest of the district knows my record – not “experience” but a “record of getting things done.” The challenge is motivating voters to get out in big numbers.

The issue in the fall is not just Trump. It is the erosion of our democracy and of our ethics. It stems from Trump but don’t over-simplify, don’t just criticize Trump. It’s judges, appointees; it’s the policies, abuses, conflicts of interest throughout the administration.

I’m running because I felt the need to keep the seat Democratic. I have shown I can win in a Republican town.

Question: What do you see as the most important issue or issues?

The most important issue is using government to provide opportunities in many areas, and how government is now being abused to take away opportunities. There are a wide variety of issues – not just one issue.

First we need to identify specific needs and work to address them. I am a problem solver. What tools do we have to fix things?

Question: What are your positions on these specific issues?

Health care: We need access to health care for all, by any path that gets us there. One option is to let people buy in to Medicare, but I am open to options – I have no firm opinion yet on Medicare for all vs. public option vs. other alternatives.

Immigration/ICE: ICE needs proper regulation. We can’t have open borders. We need a predictable, fair method of immigration. We need a path to citizenship. I support the Dream Act.

Jobs and the economy: We need a path to opportunity, reflected in policies. There are 13,000 unfilled jobs in Connecticut. We need: apprenticeship programs to help fill the job gap, loan forgiveness of students, tax credits for innovation, grants, and rebuilding infrastructure.

Impeachment: It is important to get the [Mueller] report, review it and then decide. It shouldn’t be easy to impeach. We need a bipartisan recommendation to do what’s best for the people of the U.S.

Tuition-free college:  I would love to figure out how to do it. But we also have to think about how to keep graduates in Connecticut – e.g., refinancing loans – and compare that with tuition reimbursement. We need a Federal-State-Local partnership.

Foreign policy: People are very concerned about our role– withdrawing from Iraq with nothing in its place; the lack of meaningful results with North Korea; lack of respect for our allies; military spending without accountability; undercutting with Israel; tariffs. The U.S. was always a neutral mediator.



Jahana Hayes grew up in the Berkeley Heights housing project in Waterbury. Her family struggled with addiction and relied on public assistance. Hayes got pregnant as a teenager. Despite no means for any upward mobility, she enrolled at Naugatuck Valley Community College and eventually got her four year degree at Southern Connecticut State University and her masters and advanced degrees at the University of Saint Joseph and University of Bridgeport, all the while working to support her young family. “My experience is boots on the ground,” Hayes told one audience. “No job teaches you that experience. Life teaches you that experience.”

A former high school history teacher, Hayes currently serves as the Talent and Professional Development Supervisor for Waterbury Public Schools. She was the 2016 National Teacher of the Year. She is married and has four children.

The Interview

Question: Looking forward to the November election, what makes you a strong candidate?

After the close vote at the Convention, I talked to many people – young people, people who hadn’t been involved in politics before, every demographic. Something in what I was saying resonated with them. There is an appetite for change

All of my life I have been able to get people to coalesce around ideas. I’m the better candidate in November because I have gotten support from first time voters and young people who are really engaged.

I’m a different kind of candidate with a different kind of campaign. We have to give unaffiliated voters a reason to vote Democratic, and maybe even give some Republicans a reason to switch parties. We have to bring in new voters. We have to make this more open and inclusive; every single group has to feel needed and included. Not just reaching the base. We don’t want just all career politicians making decisions. I’ve been able to introduce perspectives that maybe people didn’t already see. I want people to redefine the definition of experience. I bring together diverse groups to talk about the issues.

Question: What is your broad strategy? How do you think about your constituency and the major issues?

I don’t think our platforms are very different. I’m a Democrat and I have Democratic ideas. I think the difference is how I got to this set of opinions. There are so many people who feel they are not represented in this conversation. For instance, talk of the environment also means talk of brown fields and the dirty city air. Gun reform is both a suburban and an urban issue. We need somebody who really understands and connects the problems of people in this district. So that’s the biggest contrast.

When you look at my team, there are five or six different languages, different backgrounds and experiences, diversity of thought, all age groups.  It’s really reflective of how I’d be as a Congressperson – open and inclusive.

The actions of the President are obviously an issue. It’s motivated people to be more active. But I’m running for something, not against something. If we start working towards something, then we can create legislation that makes it impossible for him to move his agenda forward.

Question: What do you see as the most important issue or issues?

In my lifetime, I’ve been through several elections and there is often one big issue. But now I’d say we are in a time where everything is an issue. Every day we turn on the TV and we are faced with a different crisis.

I really believe that we’ve got to invest strongly in our educational system, not just in the state but nationally. And we’ve got to get people working, close some of the opportunity gaps, and increase social mobility. These issues don’t exist in silos. Education can’t happen without health care. To up-start our economy, programs are needed to retrain people for career pathways and they also need affordable housing.

Question: What are your positions on these specific issues?

Health Care: The idea of just getting rid of the ACA is not smart. It has important things in it –pre-existing conditions, allowing children to stay on their parents’ polices, getting insurance for the first time. But cost is one of the biggest challenges. Health care is a right. Together we have to think how we make this happen.

Immigration/ICE:  Constant stalling on DACA is not good. For multiple pathways to legal citizenship, let’s either make a comprehensive reform of our outdated immigration system or possibly replace it with an agency that meets those needs.

Jobs and the economy:  Not everyone wants to go to college. Training is not just for young people, but for people in industries who are being phased out and need retraining. Our natural environment poses opportunities to create jobs directly connected to clean energy. The economy is changing and we aren’t working fast enough to meet its needs.

Tuition-free college: Absolutely. Education saved my life. Everything about who I am is a result of my education. So many people want to go to school but are overwhelmed by the immense loans for jobs that pay $30,000 a year.  Something is wrong when tuition goes up and college administrators get salary bonuses.

Foreign policy: That is an incredibly complex issue. We have to continue developing positive relationships with our friends and neighbors in countries around the world, yet each must be treated differently. It is not our job to police the world. This idea of isolationism and America first and work for ourselves, this is not who we are.