The night before Jahana Hayes makes history when she’s sworn in as the newest representative of Connecticut’s Fifth District, there are high hopes for her in Waterbury.
Even though she’s going to the Capitol at a time of great political division, some experts say that could spell opportunity.
Hayes’ campaign strategy of a more representative government helped win her a seat representing Connecticut in the 116th Congress. Along with the history-making victory that sent her to Washington as part of a history-making freshman class. She’s moving the district office from New Britain to downtown Waterbury. And some believe she can really make a difference.
“She’s a strong person and she pushes… you can tell. And I know she’s going to do good. She’s going to do great,” said Alma Roman.
Voters hope Hayes can work on issues like jobs, opportunity and development once she’s sworn in Thursday.
She’s entering a government in shutdown in a fiercely divided Washington, but residents say they hope she’ll be able to work past politics and remember their issues.
“Lot of faith in her, a lot of confidence in her. And I think if somebody comes to her and they have a problem I think she’ll bend over backwards to do something about it,” Francisco Gonzalez said.
Exactly what kind of lawmaker the former National Teacher of the Year, who’s never previously held political office, will be remains to be seen, but Quinnipiac University political science Professor Scott McLean says the timing could benefit Hayes to establish herself as a bridge builder.
“My reading of her is she isn’t there to shake things up and create conflict. She’s there to deal with conflict and I think that’s what she ran on. As someone who can go in there with a different perspective. Try to clean house. Try to make peace and come at governing from a different direction,” McLean said.
Hayes says moving the office to Waterbury makes it more centrally located to serve all residents of the Fifth. In her hometown, now the seat of her district lots of people are rooting for her.
Residents of the Fifth Congressional District will be able to take their concerns directly to their new representative beginning next week, when her district office in Waterbury opens with a ribbon cutting Monday.