Rep. Elizabeth Esty to Retire;
An Analysis of the Now Open CT-5

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D, CT-5)

Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D, CT-5)

April 4, 2018 — Three-term Connecticut Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Cheshire/Waterbury), under fire for not responding to her chief of staff’s sexual and physical abuse of another staff member that even included a restraining order being issued, announced Monday that she would abandon her run for re-election.

When it surfaced that Rep. Esty allowed the chief to remain in his position for three months after the legal situation came to her attention, she began to suffer heavy criticism for not acting sooner to dismiss him. Several media editorial boards and local Democratic state legislators began calling upon her to resign. The congresswoman’s retirement announcement did not include a statement of resignation, however. Therefore, at this point, it appears she will serve the balance of the term.

Under the present Connecticut map, the 5th District is the most politically competitive in the state. Rep. Esty was first elected in 2012, winning a close 51-49 percent general election victory over then-state Sen. Andrew Roraback (R). She succeeded Christopher Murphy (D) who left the House to successfully run for the Senate. He seeks a second term this year.

Prior to her service in Congress, Esty served one term in the Connecticut House of Representatives, ousting an incumbent Republican by a 51-49 percent count in 2008 but losing to the same opponent two years later by a mirror-image margin. In her three congressional terms, Rep. Esty averaged 54.2 percent of the vote.

The 5th District occupies Connecticut’s north and western border region, beginning at the New York state line to the west and the Massachusetts boundary to the north. The CD then travels to the central portion of the state and annexes the cities of Danbury, Waterbury, and New Britain, before ending in the Middletown area, the place where four of the state’s five districts come together.

Republicans are expected to make a play for the seat. Prior to the Esty retirement announcement, former Meriden Mayor Manny Santos had announced his candidacy along with minor candidate Craig Diangelo, an information technology specialist. Now that the seat has opened, we can expect to see increased activity. Former state representative and US Senate nominee Dan Carter is a resident of this district and is being mentioned as a possible candidate. Since the Connecticut candidate filing deadline is not until June 8, much time remains for potential contenders to come forward.

The 5th is one of the few northeastern districts that has moved closer to the Republican column in immediate past elections. Hillary Clinton carried the seat by a 50-46 percent margin, a net four points under President Obama’s 2012 performance. In 2008, then-Sen. Obama topped John McCain here, 56-42 percent. Though the Democratic preference has declined during the past three presidential elections, the Republican percentage has remained relatively constant, going from 42.4 to 45.8 percent during the eight-year electoral span. This tells us that while an open-seat Republican candidate would likely be competitive, the Democratic nominee winning a close election is the probable outcome.

Esty becomes the 59th House member not to seek re-election in 2018, and the 19th Democrat. As an open seat, this district would carry a Lean Democratic rating.

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