WATERBURY — Former lieutenant governor candidate Mary Glassman edged out political newcomer Jahana Hayes on Monday night for the Democratic endorsement to run for the seat now held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, who is not seeking re-election after a sexual-harassment scandal involving a former employee.
Glassman, the former first selectman of Simsbury, won the delegate vote 173-167 over Hayes, the 2016 national teacher of the year. Hayes automatically qualified for the August primary and vowed to challenge Glassman in the sprawling 5th Congressional District, which includes much of the western part of the state.
Glassman won on the second ballot, after the first vote failed to give any of the five candidates a majority. Hayes won the initial tally of the second vote, but several delegates from New Britain — where Glassman grew up — changed their votes at the last second to give Glassman the win.
Glassman said she had a proven record of building consensus that would work well in gridlocked Washington politics.
"We all know Washington is broken," she told delegates gathered for the convention at Crosby High School in Waterbury. "Our Democratic values are being eroded every day. We need to send someone who is ready to go to work on Day 1 for the people of the 5th District."
The race had been considered a safe House seat hold for Democrats until Esty announced last month that she would not be seeking re-election amid criticism of how she handled harassment complaints against her former chief of staff. Esty, an outspoken #MeToo advocate, made the announcement days after apologizing for not protecting her employees.
Also running on Monday night were New Britain Alderman Manny Sanchez and Shaul Praver, a rabbi from Fairfield who lives outside the district.
Republicans on Friday endorsed Manny Santos, an analyst with the United Health Care Group. But retired university professor Ruby O'Neill is planning to challenge Santos in the Aug. 14 primary.
Esty's withdrawal from the race put it in the national spotlight and prompted efforts by the state Republican and Democratic parties to find prominent candidates.
Among those who considered running were Dr. William Petit Jr., a Republican state representative whose wife and two daughters were killed in a home invasion in Cheshire in 2007, and Democrats Mark Barden and Nicole Hockley, parents of two of the 20 children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Hayes, an educator with Waterbury schools and a political newcomer, would be the first black Democrat to represent Connecticut. Republican Gary Franks, who served three terms in the House in the 1990s, was the only black person to represent the state in Washington.
Hayes said she was "pleasantly surprised" by her showing Monday night, given that it is her first time ever running for office.
During the convention, she talked about struggling to make it in life, going from teenage mom to working paycheck to paycheck to earning her degrees and becoming a teacher.
"I'm here because I believe in a robust defense of respect, tolerance, freedom, equity and social justice for all of the marginalized people in this district," she said.
Glassman ran with governor candidate John DeStefano in a failed bid against Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell in 2006. She also was endorsed by Democrats to run for lieutenant governor in 2010 but lost the primary to current Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman.