National GOP see opportunity to win Connecticut House seat

National Republicans see an opportunity in western Connecticut to finally win one of the state’s five Democratic-held congressional districts in November, hoping voter discontent with the Biden administration coupled with rising inflation will help provide the momentum needed to flip the seat.

In a sign of the party’s seriousness and control of the U.S. House of Representatives at stake, Ronna McDaniel, chairperson of the National Republican Committee, made a rare appearance in Connecticut on Wednesday to mark the opening of a GOP “community center” in Democratic-heavy New Britain, a key city in the 5th Congressional District. It’s part of the GOP’s national outreach effort to minority voters.

Meanwhile, the National Republican Campaign Committee, a political and fundraising organization that works to elect GOP members of the U.S. House of Representatives, recently designated former state Sen. George Logan as a candidate who is “On the Radar,” part of the group’s “Young Guns” program. It’s a moniker that signals the NRCC’s level of interest in his challenge of Democratic U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes — a two-term incumbent the organization first targeted in February 2001.

The NRCC has already run at least five digital ads criticizing Hayes.

“Definitely Republicans are making a concerted effort to flip Connecticut 5 this year, and this is the year that we’re going to do it. Jahana Hayes has never had to run a competitive campaign since she got elected. And we’re really seeing that she’s quite untested,” said Samantha Bullock, an NCCC regional press secretary, who contends it’s a ”perfect storm” for Democrats in 2022.

“Headwinds are against Democrats in general this cycle, especially with skyrocketing inflation, surging crime, a border crisis. I think voters are keenly aware that Democrats are responsible for those crises,” she said. “Hayes has taken every single bad vote that Democrats will be held accountable for this November.”

The NRCC recently targeted Democratic Rep. Joe Courtney in November as well. Courtney represents the 2nd Congressional District in eastern Connecticut, where the number of Republican-held state legislative seats has grown in recent years.

Yet national Democrats appear particularly concerned with Hayes’ potential vulnerability in November. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee included her on the group’s list of 26 at-risk incumbent House members for its “Frontline” program, which targets most of the party’s support. Courtney, however, is not in the group.

Some of the incumbent Democrats were added to the list after their districts were changed during the reapportionment process. Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District, however, didn’t change substantially, with the exception of losing some Republican-leaning precincts. Since being merged with the former 6th Congressional District in 2002, after Connecticut lost a congressional seat during redistricting, a Republican has not represented the 5th Congressional District since 2006.

In fact, Republicans haven’t held a House seat in Connecticut since former Rep. Chris Shays from the 4th Congressional District lost in 2008 to Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, who still holds the seat.

“Republican bluster doesn’t change the facts on the ground. George Logan, a former utility company lobbyist, is now hitching his campaign to toxic Republican leadership in Washington as former National Teacher of the Year Rep. Jahana Hayes and Democrats deliver for the American people,” said James Singer, a DCCC spokesperson. He maintains that Hayes and other Democrats have a strong platform to run on in 2022.

“Democrats have built a stronger America for Connecticut families out of the COVID-19 pandemic by fighting to lower costs for families, get folks back to work and children in classrooms, and fix our neglected infrastructure.” he said in a statement.

As of the end of 2021, Hayes had a significant financial advantage over Logan and another announced Republican in the race, Michelle Botelho, a conservative political newcomer from Danbury. Federal records showed Hayes with $1.4 million in cash on hand compared to nearly $174,000 for Logan, as of Dec. 31. No money was listed for Botelho.

Liz Kurantowicz, a GOP strategist in Connecticut and a consultant to Logan’s campaign, said Logan has been working hard to win the support of Republicans across the district and is hopeful he can “avoid a meaningful primary,” giving him more strength for the general election. She pointed out how he achieved the NRCC’s “On the Radar” status late last month.

“This race has been on their target list since over a year ago. So I think that this has always been a race that they’re interested in,” she said. “But George, as a candidate, has made that interest turn into opportunity.”