Christine Stuart photo
Clay Cope accepts the nomination (Christine Stuart photo)

Republicans in the 5th Congressional District overwhelmingly nominated Sherman First Selectman Clay Cope as the candidate they want to challenge U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty.

Cope, 53, received the support of 226 delegates. Bill Stevens the Newtown businessman — who launched a last-minute attack on Cope by bringing up two-decades old criminal charges against Cope’s younger brother — received the support of just 21 delegates.

“That was a really dark hour for our family,” Cope said after receiving the nomination. “To intimate that I was the person incarcerated was bad enough, but to bring up my little brothers problem with drugs — not good. Not a unity thing to do.”

Cope was nominated by Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and Sen. Rob Kane of Watertown.

“We’re going to have a tough, difficult, challenging — whatever adjective you want to use at beating Elizabeth Esty,” Boughton said. “She’s got all the money. She’s got all the lobbyists. She’s got all the special interests. She’s got everybody in pocket that you possibly could think of, but Clay’s got something she doesn’t have. And that’s an ability to connect with people.”

Cope is banking on his people skills and his fundraising ability to get traction with the voters in the district.

“I will be an active and engaged congressman,” Cope, a three-term first selectman, said.

Asked by reporters if he was breaking any new ground by being nominated, Cope dismissed questions hinting at his sexual orientation. Cope is openly gay and has a partner, Andres Sanchez, who also attended Monday’s nomination.

Cope said his sexual orientation has nothing to do with his job, so he has no idea if he’s breaking any barriers by being nominated Monday.

“Couldn’t care less,” Cope said. “It has nothing to do with my job or my effectiveness as a leader and a representative.”

Cope said the topic never comes up until reporters ask him about it.

The big issues in the race will be “immigration, security, and jobs,” Cope said.

He said people in Sherman are concerned about jobs and their unemployed, 27-year-old children living in their basements.

There are 41 cities and towns in the 5th District. There are more unaffiliated voters than Republicans or Democrats in the district, which last elected a Republican in 2006. It’s the most Republican of Connecticut’s five congressional districts. There are only four big cities — Danbury, Meriden, New Britain, and Waterbury — which tend to lean Democratic.

Esty first won the seat in 2012 after defeating Andrew Roraback by just 3 percentage points. She easily defeated Mark Greenberg in 2014.

Christine Stuart photo
Daria Novak (Christine Stuart photo)

Connecticut Republicans also endorsed Matthew Corey to run against U.S. Rep. John Larson, Angela Cadena Jr. to run against U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, and state Rep. John Shaban of Redding to run against U.S. Rep. Jim Himes.

In the Second Congressional District, Daria Novak,a radio talk show host and former U.S. State Department employee, bested Westbrook tax attorney, Ann Brookes, by five votes. Brookes has 14 days to decide if she will mount a primary challenge.

Novak received the Republican Party’s support at the 2010 convention, but lost the primary to former news anchor Janet Peckinpaugh. In 2012 she failed to win enough support at the Republican convention. That year, state Sen. Paul Formica of East Lyme challenged U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney and lost.

In 2014, Lori Hopkins-Cavanagh, a real estate agent and failed New London mayoral candidate, lost her challenge of Courtney by more than 61,000 votes. The last Republican to hold the seat was former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, who Courtney defeated by less than 100 votes in 2006.

Democrats also gathered Monday in their respective districts to renominate Larson, DeLauro, Courtney, Himes, and Esty for their seats.

Democrats have held all five seats since 2008 when Himes defeated former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays.