Muad Hrezi turns in some signatures.

Muad Hrezi of East Hartford gathered and submitted more than 5,200 signatures to local election officials Tuesday with the hopes of having enough to challenge U.S. Rep. John B. Larson in a Democratic primary. 

“It’s an absurd process,” Hrezi, the son of Libyan immigrants and a former staffer for U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, said Wednesday. 

Hrezi and his team of volunteers and paid signature collectors had three hours yesterday to drive to 25 town halls across the district and submit the signatures for verification. 

“We didn’t even have enough time to validate the signatures we collected before submitting them,” Hrezi said. 

He said often people don’t know what party they are actually registered with or in what town. Each signature page has to be submitted to the town where the voter is registered.

“It’s a silly process,” Hrezi said. 

“Sometimes people are registered to vote, and they vote Democratic, but they are actually registered unaffiliated,” Hrezi said. “Or they moved to East Hartford and are still registered to vote in Hartford and signed the wrong sheet of paper.” 

It’s a “ridiculous process” set up to hurt challengers, he said.

Hrezi said his ability to raise nearly $500,000 to challenge Larson should be enough to prove he’s a serious candidate and people in the district want to see him run. That’s half of what Larson has raised, but more than any of the Republican candidates running for Congress this year. 

Larson has represented the district since 1999. He has not faced a primary challenge in 24 years. 

“I look forward to campaigning on my record. Just last year, I brought home over half a billion dollars to help put vaccines in arms, people back on the job, and kids back in their school seats. Looking ahead, I pledge to protect your Social Security benefits, fight gas company price-gouging, and tackle gun violence,” Larson said in a statement.

“I’m proud to have won the Democratic endorsement overwhelmingly, and I ask every voter in the First District for their support,” he added. 

After not winning enough support at the convention last month Hrezi will be trying to follow the playbook set by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2018, when she unseated her district’s perpetual incumbent. Hrezi and his backers are hopeful that there’s a similar untapped undercurrent of progressive discontent in central Connecticut.

Republicans have tapped Larry Lazor, a doctor from West Hartford, to run for the seat.