Danbury conservative newcomer running for Congress: 'dealing with people is my political experience'

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DANBURY — A political newcomer who says her conservative values stem from her immigrant parents’ work ethic, her Christian faith, and her love of the Constitution is running to represent Connecticut’s Fifth Congressional District.

“I don’t have experience in elected office, but I am dealing with children, I am dealing with the elderly, and I am dealing with the people in my community,” said Michelle Botelho, 51, a mother of two college-age kids, who has worked as a paralegal and a tutor in Danbury public schools. “Dealing with people is my political experience.”

Botelho, who describes herself as an ‘America First’ advocate, is the second Republican to challenge two-term Democrat Jahana Hayes. Republican George Logan, a former two-term state senator from Ansonia, announced he was running for Connecticut’s most competitive congressional seat in July.

A spokesperson for Hayes’ campaign on Tuesday said until a single GOP candidate emerges from the primary, the Republicans are racing against themselves.

“Candidates announcing does not change the trajectory of Congresswoman Hayes’ work,” said campaign manager Barbara Ellis.

Logan’s campaign did not return a request for comment on Tuesday.

Botelho and a local Republican leader conceded on Tuesday that while it was important to get an early start against a candidate like Hayes who has a national profile, it will be hard to generate much Republican support for Botelho over the next six weeks, when the focus here and across the 5th District is on municipal elections, such as Danbury’s mayoral race.

Yet Botelho said she felt it was important to get the word out now that she doesn’t want to be “just another Republican in Congress that shies away from issues.”

“I want to be a voice for people who feel they are not being heard — because that’s how I feel,” Botelho said. “Unfortunately, the Republicans in Congress right now don’t want to rock the boat. I have no issue doing that.”

Botelho said she would fight big government, invest in the military and border patrol, promote fiscal conservatism, and “bring back more manufacturing jobs to America.”

On Tuesday Botelho said she wasn’t sure how to assess her chances in a Republican primary against a former elected leader such as Logan, or in a general election contest with Hayes, the 2016 national Teacher of the Year, who already has $1.2 million her reelection campaign for 2022.

“All I know is I want to do right by the Fifth District and I want to do right by my community, because people want a voice,” Botelho said. “Right now I have a lot of people on my side who are willing to volunteer, and although I don’t have the money Jahana Hayes has, I am willing to do the footwork.”

It remains to be seen how successfully a political newcomer will be able to get the word out to voters in a district that reaches as far north as the Massachusetts border and as far east as New Britain.

In Botelho’s own city, where she has lived for 21 years, Republican Party chairman Michael Safranek says he doesn’t recognize her name.

“I don’t know her, but right now I am 110 percent focused on the municipal elections in six weeks,” Safranek said on Tuesday.

Botelho, whose parents emigrated to the United States from Italy, said she was as qualified as any incumbent to run for a seat in Washington, D.C.

“If you look at our state government and our federal government, the experience (politicians) have is not really holding its own,” Botelho said. “My experience is being with people and knowing their needs and wants.”

rryser@newstimes.com 203-731-3342