With the legislative session and a labor agreement in his rearview mirror, House Speaker Chris Donovan spent the last half of last week launching his bid for the 5th Congressional District.
Donovan is one of four Democrats vying for the nomination next year and he told a crowd of around 350 supporters at his headquarters in Meriden Friday that someone needs to be “fighting for families in America.”
“Families are worried about jobs. They’re worried about health care. They’re worried about their kids. They’re worried about their grandparents,” Donovan said. “They’re worried about things and they’re looking for: Is government going to be there to help me, because things are tough right now?”
“I want to believe that it can,” Donovan said.
He said he first got involved with politics when he was concerned about an abandoned building. He said no one was doing anything about it, so he and a few neighbors wrote a letter and a petition, but they “really didn’t go anywhere.”
The four of them decided to go down to city hall and confront the town official. The official drove out to the property and took care of it.
“If government isn’t working let’s have the people, the allies work with it to make it happen,” Donovan said. “That’s what I’m going to do in Washington. To make sure that if it’s not working I’m going to have you there in Washington to fight for you the people.”
Donovan touted his community activism and talked about the victories he had during the 2009 budget battle with former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell. He claimed victory for convincing Rell to implement a higher income tax rate on millionaires.
“So if we can do that in Connecticut, I think we can bring all of us to Washington and we can make sure as Warren Buffet said let’s tax those millionaires and make sure we don‘t hurt the families in America,” Donovan said
Perhaps the most liberal and progressive of the four Democratic candidates, Donovan’s supporters remain confident that even if a few lines are redrawn around the 5th Congressional District that he will be able to compete, and in their opinion win a general election.
“Chris’ strength is in Danbury, Meriden, New Britain, and now Waterbury,” former House Majority Leader David Pudlin said Friday.
Pudlin, who is volunteering for Donovan’s campaign, also said the more he’s attacked by the Republicans or editorial boards, the better he will do amongst the electorate.
“I love the attacks on him. I think they increase his vote,” Pudlin said. “He really is a bleeding heart for middle-class working families…so the stuff they want he spent his life crusading for.”
“More people know who he is, more people want to contribute, and he has a volunteer base that is insurmountable,” Pudlin added.
Rep. Kevin Ryan, D-Montville, said he’s not as familiar with Donovan’s opponents, but he believes Donovan has the name recognition and volunteer base he needs to pull off a win in a district where close to 200,000 or nearly half the voters in the district identify themselves as independents.
The district is currently made up of 41 towns and at least 15 towns leaned toward the Republican candidate, former state Rep. Sam Caligiuri of Waterbury, in 2010.
Republicans are hopeful they can win back the seat they lost in 2006 when U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy defeated former U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson, but it’s a presidential election year and it’s still unclear exactly what the district will look like when the Reapportionment Committee, which Donovan co-chairs finishes its work.
Committee members have acknowledged they will more than likely miss the Sept. 15 deadline on how the lines should be redrawn, which means it will need to appoint a ninth member to its board before completing its work.
Pudlin argued the while the district has gone to Republican candidates like Rep. Nancy Johnson in the past, it’s also been represented by some of the state’s more liberal congressmen like former U.S. Rep. Toby Moffett.
It will also be easy to redistrict one of the candidates out completely since at least five candidates in the race live in communities on the border. Donovan and at least one of his Democratic opponents, former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty of Cheshire, live on the border of the district. Three Republicans candidates, including Justin Bernier of Plainville, Mike Clark of Farmington, and Lisa Wilson-Foley of Simsbury also live in communities on the current district line.
Each congressional district should have a population of 714,819 this year, up from 681,113 a decade ago, according to U.S. Census numbers. The 5th has 714,296. The 2nd Congressional District will need to shed some voters this year because it has swelled to 729,771 people and when the lines for the five districts are drawn those population shifts will be felt in all the districts.
Donovan’s opponents in the Democratic primary include Esty, Mike Williams of Middletown, and Dan Roberti of Kent.