In the few days that remain before the upcoming midterm elections, Americans have to make a critical decision. We must vote for a candidate to represent our interests in Congress. In this unsettled and divisive time, the burden of choosing wisely is heavier than we ever imagined. For new and young voters, our participation may determine the race. Given our numbers and recent history as a disengaged voter block, the future path of this country may rest disproportionately on our shoulders. Like other Americans, constituents of the 5th Congressional District in Connecticut have an enormous responsibility to bear. The two candidates running for this congressional seat are Jahana Hayes (D) and Manny Santos (R). One represents progressive policies with an intention to invest in and serve her community, while the other wholly embraces Trumpism and represents corporate and moneyed interests above all else.
Hayes provides an unprecedented and important perspective in American politics. Briefly homeless before she became pregnant at 17, Hayes grew up in public housing in Waterbury and was raised by her grandmother while her mother struggled with addiction. She often attributes her ability to rise out of her crippling circumstances to her community and to her thirst for education. Truly understanding what it is like to have a marginalized identity and to struggle to make it out of difficult circumstances, Hayes is running for office to act as a voice for all people, including marginalized voices in silenced communities.
Three months ago I was interning for Hayes’ primary opponent, Mary Glassman. In a very civil competition, Hayes emerged victorious. Shocking many of those who thought Glassman was a certain winner of the primary due to her name recognition and her endorsement by the Connecticut Democratic Party, Hayes, a former national teacher of the year, proved many people wrong.
Admittedly slightly disappointed that my efforts to help Mary Glassman win had failed, I was quickly accepting of the results of the election after seeing the unprecedented turnout of urban and young voters in the primary. I realized that marginalized groups decided that they had a voice in Hayes like never before. I found this to be truly uplifting. After the results of the primary, I knew I had to get on board with Hayes’ campaign and help her attain a platform where she can represent not only the civically engaged Americans but also those who feel disenfranchised by government.
Hayes’ opponent, on the other hand, is not concerned with putting people first. His biggest priority is protecting corporations. In a recent debate at Central Connecticut State University, Santos responded to a question about the crippling effects of college debt on students post-graduation by stating that, “The student debt is something that, frankly, a lot of students bring upon themselves” (sic). He further showed his lack of compassion and concern for the people of his district by admitting that he personally does not support gay marriage, adding that he would be “supportive of anti discrimination (legislation)” for LGBTQ citizens. (I hate to break this to you Mr. Santos but not supporting LGBTQ Americans’ right to be married is discriminatory).
In addition to policy that does not prioritize the happiness and safety of the people of the district, one of the most concerning elements of Santos’ debate performance was how blatantly unprepared he was. In declining to use many of his rebuttal opportunities and having to load his closing statement on his iPhone, Santos proved that he is not prepared to represent the interests of citizens in Congress.
Hayes, on the other hand, spoke eloquently about the issues she clearly cares about and intends to fight for in Congress. As she stated at CCSU, she believes in investing in our public education systems in order to provide equitable access to opportunity for all young adults. She also spoke to the national common sense gun legislation she would advocate for to prevent another mass shooting while simultaneously keeping guns off the streets of our urban communities. While not addressed by questions at the debate, Hayes also believes in advocating for social justice, job creation and training programs, universal health care and a fair legal pathway to citizenship.
Despite the fact that I began working for Hayes’ opponent, I believe in her ability to enact change in American society and to make it a better place for us all. If elected, Jahana Hayes would be the first black woman to represent a New England state in Congress. This would mark immense social progress, and would benefit all of us by making Congress more representative of the diversity of the American people. Hayes is a candidate with a compelling personal story. She is also the candidate on the correct side of issues, for both Connecticut and the country. All voters of the 5th District need to stand with Hayes. New and young voters need to lead the way. Vote on Nov. 6. Our future depends on it.
Maggie McGuire is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.