Dr. William A. Petit Jr. said Friday he is considering running next year as a Republican for the state’s 5th Congressional District currently represented by Democrat Elizabeth Esty.
Petit is well known in Connecticut as the sole survivor of a 2007 home invasion in Cheshire, an incident in which his wife and two daughters were murdered. He has been a vocal advocate against abolishing the state’s death penalty and often is credited with convincing lawmakers not to pass a repeal in 2011. However, the legislature repealed the law in 2012.
Petit, who spoke to reporters at a Simsbury event on domestic violence awareness, said he is undecided and believes there is about a 50/50 chance that he will run next year. He said he has to weigh family concerns. Petit recently remarried and he and his wife are expecting a child within the next few months.
A Congressional run “is something I’m thinking about, taking counsel with a number of people and I’m trying to make a decision about which way to head,” he said. “Whether it’s to go forward in my life with my wife and a new baby and pursue other interests or, potentially get into the political field.”
Petit said he has been contacted by local Republicans and some from across the country who have encouraged him to run over the past few years.
“At a low level, it’s been going on for three or four years. I guess this year is the first time I listened at all,” he said.
Asked about the job performance of Esty, who is serving her first term as the 5th district’s representative, Petit paused and said “I think she’s a freshman in Congress. That’s a tough position to be in,” adding that it is even tougher to be a freshman lawmaker in the House’s minority party.
As a one-term state representative, Esty represented the town of Cheshire where Petit lived. She often blames her defeat in 2010 on opposition to her vote in favor of repealing the death penalty.
If he decided to run, Petit would likely face a primary battle with Mark Greenberg, a Litchfield Republican who ran unsuccessfully for the nomination last year. Both would be seeking to join the current Republican majority in the House, which has been engaged for weeks in a standoff with the president and Congressional Democrats over the Affordable Care Act and budget negotiations.
Gridlock between the two parties in Washington has caused an ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government and could cause the country to default on its debt if a deal is not worked out to raise the national borrowing limit. Asked about the apparent impasse, Petit said Republicans have to stand their ground in negotiations.
“I think if you believe in smaller government and less spending you have to stand your ground and try to do what you can to try to have a position to negotiate from,” Petit said. “Unfortunately, that’s been the only negotiating position they have been able to have to be able to slow down spending.”
Asked his position on the Affordable Care Act as a doctor, Petit said there are “a lot of problems with it.”
“I think it’s a complex issue that probably needs a little more thought,” he said.
Petit said it has been his interactions with parts of the government since the murders of his family that has him considering seeking elected office. That includes testifying at the state Capitol and participating the trials of the two men now convicted of the crimes, he said. If he were elected, Petit said he would seek to advocate on judicial issues like truth in sentencing and domestic violence.
He said he considers the Connecticut legislature’s decision to repeal capital punishment a mistake. Petit said calling it a disappointment would be an understatement.
“I’d probably use something stronger than that. Politicians clearly make egregious errors at times when they make decisions,” he said. “. . . That’s clearly one.”