Jahana Hayes, Former Teacher of the Year, Wins Democratic Nomination for Congress in Connecticut

Jahana Hayes blows kisses at her supporters after winning the Democratic primary for 5th district against Mary Glassman. (John Woike / Hartford Courant)
Jahana Hayes blows kisses at her supporters after winning the Democratic primary for 5th district against Mary Glassman. (John Woike / Hartford Courant)

Jahana Hayes, a Waterbury, CT, history teacher with no political experience, captured the Democratic nomination for Connecticut’s 5th District seat on Tuesday night and is now a step away from becoming the first black Democrat elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from New England.

Who is Jahana Hayes?

Hayes, 46, was raised by her grandmother in a Waterbury housing project. She became pregnant at 17 and made her way through the community college and state university systems, graduating from Southern Connecticut State in 2005. She taught history at Kennedy High School in Waterbury and is now a professional development supervisor for Waterbury Public Schools.

In 2016, Hayes was recognized by former President Barrack Obama as the National Teacher of the Year. When Obama received her at the White House and presented her with a crystal apple, Hayes, facing a scrum of media, asked whether she should just start talking to them. “Well, I suppose you could call attendance first,” Obama joked.

Hayes is married to Milford Hayes, a Waterbury police officer, and a mother to four kids. They live in Wolcott.

Why is she running?

Elizabeth Esty, who represents Connecticut’s 5th congressional district, decided not to seek reelection after acknowledging she mishandled knowledge that her former chief of staff had abused and threatened another member of her staff.

Hayes, who had never before sought political office, said she wanted to serve in Congress to represent people who’ve traditionally been marginalized or excluded from national policy discussions.

“I am running because I see myself in every student, teacher, mom, sister, daughter, friend, neighbor and stranger I meet, and their story is my story,” she told The Courant after announcing her candidacy. “I want to earn the trust of the people in this district and be the person to carry their concerns to Washington.”

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SOURCE: Matthew Ormseth
Hartford Courant