What Connecticut can expect after the Nov. 6 election of the state’s first black congresswoman is an agenda of progressive initiatives, from a $15 hourly minimum wage to Medicare for all.
Jahana Hayes, who beat Trump Republican Manny Santos on a platform of supporting public education, creating citizenship programs for immigrants, passing gun safety legislation, closing the equity gap, and making health care available to everyone, will have a hard time passing any of those measures with a hardline conservative in the White House and a Republican-led U.S. Senate.
But Hayes won’t be alone.
Going to Washington, D.C., with her in 2019 as part of the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives will be a record number of women — including progressives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, and Ayanna Pressley, of Massachusetts — both of whom, like Hayes, defeated establishment Democrats in their primaries.
As such, Hayes is not only considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, but a standard-bearer among progressives.
“Her victory is a victory for everything she stands for: Medicare for all, retirement security, and an opportunity to succeed no matter the color of your skin, your economic status, or where you come from,” said Lindsay Farrell, state director of the Connecticut Working Families Party, in a statement. “Amid the stark contrast between Jahana’s progressive, inclusive vision and her opponent's Trumpian politics, voters made their choice clear.”
One of Hayes’ earliest supporters, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, agreed.
“Jahana Hayes is going to be a rock star in the House of Representatives,” Murphy said in a statement. “Jahana is part of an impressive group of new members in the House who will help lead the country away from the past eight years of disastrous Republican leadership, and instead fight to grow wages, protect health care, invest in education and hold President Trump accountable.”
Although Hayes was a political newcomer and relatively unknown in Connecticut’s 5th District except for her selection in 2016 as the National Teacher of the Year, Hayes never trailed Santos. Her aggressive fundraising, her ability to inspire campaign volunteers and her charisma with voters had Washington election forecasters calling her the favorite as soon as she trounced her primary opponent.
But it was Hayes’ ability to translate her personal story of hardship into a message of hope, and her focus on the issues that gave her what state Democratic Party Chairman Nick Balletto called “unstoppable momentum” and propelled her to a 30,000-vote victory over Santos.
Santos was gracious in his concession.
“I and my opponent ran a relatively clean campaign, focusing on the issues,” Santos said in a social media post. “The outcome was not as we had wanted; nonetheless, the voters of the district have spoken and have elected Jahana Hayes.”
Hayes credited constituents of the 5th District, which stretches from the Danbury area, north to Massachusetts, and from the New York border to New Britain and Middlefield.
“When I started this campaign, I knew I couldn’t do it alone but I asked you to trust me with your vote and to trust me with your voice,” Hayes said in a social media post. “Thank you for choosing me to be your congresswoman and trusting me with your voice.”