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2016 National Teacher of the Year could be Connecticut's first black Democrat in Congress

Jahana Hayes moved one step closer towards becoming Connecticut's first black Democrat in Congress on Tuesda...

Posted: Aug. 15, 2018 10:31 AM
Updated: Aug. 15, 2018 10:31 AM

Jahana Hayes moved one step closer towards becoming Connecticut's first black Democrat in Congress on Tuesday when the former National Teacher of the Year bested Mary Glassman in the state's 5th Congressional District primary.

Glassman conceded to Hayes as results streamed in, calling her a "tough competitor" who "ran a good race." The seat was opened when Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Esty announced she wouldn't be seeking re-election following accusations she mishandled an abuse claim in her office.

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President Barack Obama named Hayes, who was then teaching social studies at John F. Kennedy High School in Waterbury, National Teacher of the Year in 2016. She was celebrated for her story: She grew up in a housing project in Waterbury, was raised by her grandmother while her mother struggled with drug addiction and became a mom at 17.

"Our teacher of the year here stands as proof that you can't set expectations high enough for our kids," Obama said. "There's magic in those kids. We just have to find it."

Hayes ran toward her story during her primary campaign, touting the hurdles she overcame to get to her place in life and her campaign prominently featured Obama awarding her the teacher's award.

"This is my home, where people are strong, but they aren't supposed to run for Congress," Hayes said in a campaign video about Waterbury. "If Congress starts to look like us, no one can stop us. This is our moment to act, to organize, and bring our truth to power."

Hayes ran on protecting the public education system, moving towards a single-payer health care system and passing gun control legislation, a position she attributes to the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in nearby Sandy Hook, Connecticut.

Hayes will face either Republicans Manny Santos, Ruby Corby O'Neill or Rich DuPont in the November general election. The district leans Democratic, according to a host of race ratings.

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