Leading Democratic lawmaker joins chorus against Esty

April 1, 2018 GMT

The co-chairman of the General Assembly’s law-writing Judiciary Committee has joined a growing group of Democratic state lawmakers asking for embattled U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty to resign after admitting that that she let an abusive chief of staff run roughshod over her employees.

State Sen. Paul Doyle, D-Wethersfield, in a late-night tweet Saturday, joined Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, and Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, in asking Esty, who was once a state representative before winning the congressional seat in 2012, to step down.

“In light of Congresswoman Esty’s conduct, I join with my State Senate colleagues and call on Congresswoman Esty to resign her seat,” wrote Doyle, a 24-year veteran of the House and Senate who is campaigning for the Democratic nomination for state attorney general. “Her resignation would be appropriate and best for all the citizens of Connecticut.”

Esty, who canceled public appearances in recent days, has said she will not resign, but wants to do a better job, after admitting that she inappropriately handled the abuse her staff sustained under Tony Baker, whom she finally fired in the summer of 2016. She gave Baker a positive job reference, for which he was able to get hired by the Ohio office of Sandy Hook Promise until his apparent firing last week.

On Thursday Hearst Connecticut Media and The Washington Post reported that a former Esty staff member, 29-year-old Anna Kain, said that Baker punched her in the back and allegedly threatened to kill her. Esty admitted that Baker was abusive to other employees as well.

“I know firsthand we need stronger workplace protections, and to provide employees with a platform to raise concerns,” she wrote on Thursday. “But that’s not enough. Those concerns need to be listened to. And people in power must take action.”

If Esty were to resign, depending on the number of days left before the next election, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, would have 10 days to issue writs of election in the 41-town 5th Congressional District, ordering a special election 60 days later “other than a Saturday or Sunday” to fill the vacancy. But there are also provisions for primary elections in the law.

Special congressional elections are rare in Connecticut, with the last one in 1982, following the death of 1st District U.S. Rep. William R. Cotter, a Democrat who died in the middle of his term from pancreatic cancer in September of 1981. Democrat Barbara Kennelly won that special election, serving from 1982 until 1999. She lost the 1998 gubernatorial election to John G. Rowland, a Republican now finishing his second stint in federal custody following corruption convictions involving his participation in the 2014 5th District race.

The previous special congressional election occurred in the 2nd District of eastern Connecticut, following the May, 1970 death of William St. Onge, a third-term Democrat who was replaced by Republican Robert H. Steele in that November’s election, filling the last few weeks of St. Onge’s term with the 91st Congress, while also, simultaneously, winning the first of his own two terms.

The last Republican to hold the 5th District seat was Nancy Johnson, who served from 1983 until 2007, first representing the 6th District, until the state’s declining population resulted in the loss of a congressional seat after the 2000 census, when she shifted to the 5th District.

kdixon@ctpost.com Twitter: @KenDixonCT