In their final debate before voters head to the polls, the contrast between endorsed Democrat Mary Glassman and longtime school teacher Jahana Hayes has more to do with style and experience than it does with policy proposals.
During the hour-long debate that streamed live on NBC Connecticut’s mobile app and Facebook Live, the two agreed that Congress should pursue a “single-payer” health insurance system, legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in some capacity, and on the need to work across the aisle.
But there were numerous tense moments between the two candidates looking to replace Rep. Elizabeth Esty in the Fifth Congressional District. Esty announced she would not seek re-election after she came under scrutiny for her handling of sexual harassment allegations against her former chief of staff.
Glassman made the first attack, criticizing Hayes for having more financial support from out-of-state donors.
"I think you can tell a lot about a candidate, how they'll act in Congress and the way they'll run their campaign,” Glassman said. To date, Hayes has collected about half of all of her financing from out-of-state contributions, compared to Glassman, who has received more than 80 percent of her contributions from within the state of Connecticut.
Hayes also pointed to the fact that Glassman provided a loan to her campaign worth $30,000.
"I'm also the only candidate who didn't loan myself any money,” Hayes said. "I am a person who has never run for elected office who stepped into this race and has inspired a nation. Fifty percent of my money is from in state, I had to go outside of state. That's what innovators do. They make a path where there isn't one. They create footprints where there weren't any."
Hayes is a former school teacher who was named, “National Teacher of the Year” in 2016, which brought her a level of fame around the country. She appeared with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and she even appeared on the Ellen show.
Glassman has spent her career in government, with much of her career focused on her time running Simsbury as First Selectwoman. She also ran unsuccessfully on two occasions for lieutenant governor, most recently in 2010. Glassman won the party’s endorsement for the race back in May in a controversial vote that involved vote switches. She defeated Hayes by two votes.
The winner of the Democratic Primary will face the winner of the three-way GOP primary, which features endorsed Republican Manny Santos who is the former mayor of Meriden, Ruby Corby O’Neill who is a former college professor from Southbury, and Rich DuPont, a businessman from Watertown.
On the conversation about legalizing marijuana, Glassman said she supported the regulation of the drug for recreational use at the state level. Hayes said she supported it at the federal level, and even said, “I’m not running for statewide office,” referring to Glassman’s answer.
The two also differed on whether Nancy Pelosi, the California Congresswoman, should continue as the leader of the party in the event Democrats regain a majority in November.
Glassman would not rule out voting for Pelosi saying, "I made it very clear I want to see all of the candidates who are running for speaker and I'll make the decision that's best for our community and for all of the people that serve throughout the district."
Hayes was far more direct, saying, "I would not vote for Nancy Pelosi."
Finally, both candidates have different factions of the state Democratic establishment backing them. Glassman attended a fundraiser in Washington, DC organized by sitting Congressmen John Larson, Rosa DeLauro, and Joe Courtney. While Hayes was urged to run for office by U.S. Senator Chris Murphy who is seeking a second term in the Senate this fall.
Hayes downplayed her support from Murphy, saying, “He's introduced me to people. But once I have to do something to make those people support me. I wouldn't give him that much credit."