Mary Glassman, left, Democratic candidate for the 5th Congressional District, and challenger Jahana Hayes answer questions during a candidates forum on Sunday at Bryan Memorial Town Hall in Washington. The event was hosted by the Washington Town Democratic Committee.
BY LYNN MELLIS WORTHINGTON REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN WASHINGTON, Conn. —
The spirit of possibility filled Bryan Memorial Town Hall Sunday afternoon when over 200 people gathered to hear the Democratic candidates for Congress in the Fifth District. Jahana Hayes’ supporters were enthusiastic in their support of their candidate, so much so that their applause and cheers drowned out her answers to several questions throughout the forum, while Mary Glassman stressed during her answers several times that her prior experience would make her a better candidate. “Education saved mylife,” said Hayes, explaining her story of growing up in the Waterbury projects and paying her own way through college through low-interest government loans. She believes students today should have the same opportunities that she did and not be saddled with debt from attending college.
She also believes there are other avenues to jobs through career education and training. “We will be judged by how we treat our children,” Hayes said to thunderous applause and cheers. Glassman also said there needs be low-interest loans but pointed to the 13,000 “skilled labor jobs” unfilled in the state.
“There needs to be a partnership between schools and businesses,” Glassman said.
The downstairs hall was packed with Democrats from towns in Northwest Connecticut who will choose between the two women during the Aug. 14 primary.
Democratic candidates for the 5th Congressional District, Jahana Hayes, left, and Mary Glassman, right, answer questions posed to them by moderator Bill Fairbairn, center, during a candidates forum Sunday at Bryan Memorial Town Hall in Washington. It was the first time the candidates have appeared together in one of the area towns. Moderator Reginald W.H. Fairbairn, a member of the Washington Democratic Town Committee, asked 10 rounds of questions and then several submitted by audience members. The topics covered included immigration, health care, gun laws, campaign finance, voting laws and higher education finances.
The one area of disagreement was on experience for public office. Hayes has never held elected office, having served as a history teacher in Waterbury high schools. She said this shouldn’t disqualify her. “Part of the problem is that we look at experience as sitting behind a desk and working on paper. My experience is boots on the ground,” she said. “Time and time again I’ve had doors shut in my face and I’ve had to walk around and knock on the back door. I will not quit. This is who I am. I care about people not having a voice.”
Glassman said her experience serving 16 years as mayor of Simsbury and her work with state organizations gives her the governmental experience necessary for a congressman. “That’s not being out of touch. That’s not sitting behind a desk. That’s bringing creativity and leadership and vision as a model for all towns across Connecticut,” Glassman said, citing her work when Simsbury was without power for 12 days after a storm. “It’s experience that called out the National Guard to clear the roads. It’s experience that served 10,000 people a day through the shelters. It’s experience that doesn’t require you to introduce yourself to the businesses and hotels at the time of an emergency,” Glassman said.
Each was asked if they would support the other after the primary and both said they would support the Democratic Party. “I will do everything in my power to make sure that this seat stays a Democratic seat,” Glassman said.
The congressional seat opened when Congressman Elizabeth H. Esty decided not to seek re-election, admitting she failed to protect women on her staff from sexual harassment and threats of violence from her former chief of staff.
“This is so much bigger than me. This is about Democratic ideas and values. My pride would never get in the way of something like that,” Hayes said. “I will encourage all
these young people who are coalescing around me, who are excited about democracy and to stay involved.” “When you’re following a person, you’re doing it wrong.
When you’re following an idea, when you’re following a belief, then you’ll win,” Hayes said.
In their closing statements, both candidates thanked those attending. Hayes said it was exciting to her because it showed that people were being thoughtful and purposeful about their vote. “You expect your leaders to work for (your vote) every single time. It gives me fire,” Hayes said.
Glassman said her background growing up in New Britain and her work experience has prepared her for this new role. “It is incumbent upon us that the decisions that are made can make a difference in our communities,” Glassman said. She said it is was important that Congress strengthen its laws to be a true check and balance in the government.