CHRIS POWELL: Carpetbagger charge in 5th just diminishes the campaign

Published on Monday, 30 May 2022 14:53
Written by

CHRIS POWELL

Connecticut's 5th Congressional District, encompassing the northwest part of the state, running from Danbury north to Waterbury with eastward extensions to New Britain and Meriden, is generally considered the state's most politically competitive. So one might think that it would generate the most intelligent and issue-oriented campaigns.

That isn't happening yet this year.

Inflation is raging, living standards are falling, students have lost a year or two of education because of the virus epidemic, society is disintegrating generally, the country is waging a blank-check proxy war against Russia in Ukraine, and what are the big issues in the 5th District?

First was the discovery that the Democratic incumbent, former national teacher of the year Jahana Hayes, has put her two children on her campaign's payroll doing small jobs at small salaries. This was nepotism but it was in Hayes' campaign, not her congressional office, it was legal, and it was properly reported.

Then the Democrats charged that the Republican nominee, former state Sen. George Logan, is a carpetbagger for moving from Ansonia, which is in the 3rd Congressional District, to Meriden, where he is renting a house and has registered to vote so he can be living in the district from which he would be elected.

In their attack on Logan, the Democrats likened him to Curious George, the monkey in the children's book series. This was amazingly obtuse as well as ironic coming from the political party that strives to take offense at everything, for Logan is Black and likening Black people to monkeys is old racist disparagement.

So voila! Another scandal, right?

Except that Hayes is Black too, and what's bad for the goose is bad for the gander, thereby signifying that stupid as the form of the Democratic attack on Logan was, it wasn't meant to be racist, even if the worst is always assumed of Republican motives in their campaign gaffes.

The carpetbagger issue is worth arguing because there seldom is much substance to it.

Candidates from both parties often have moved around in search of more congenial jurisdictions.

The now-sainted Bobby Kennedy, a Democrat, attorney general for his brother, President John F. Kennedy, was raised in Massachusetts and was living in Virginia when, in 1964, his brother having been assassinated, he decided to run for the U.S. Senate in New York, Virginia then being too conservative to elect a Kennedy.

Today Republican Mitt Romney is U.S. senator from Utah but he first gained national prominence as governor of Massachusetts, a Democratic state that is not sending Republicans to Congress. Romney is a Mormon and Utah, being the Mormon state, easily got over his Northeastern taint.

As for Connecticut, it is a small and generally cosmopolitan state where few people are completely out of place -- so small that several times in its history it was happy to elect all its members of Congress on an at-large basis and had no congressional districts at all. All Connecticut's members of Congress then were presumed to be prepared to represent the whole state.

Indeed, even today there is no requirement for a member of Congress to reside in the district from which he is elected. That is just a political tradition. The Constitution requires only that members of Congress live in the state from which they are elected. (Oddly, the speaker of the House of Representatives doesn't even have to be a member of the House, which can choose anyone in the country to be its presiding officer.)

Connecticut's returning to a system of at-large election to Congress might facilitate better candidates by broadening their practical eligibility and giving voters more choices.

The 5th District has more rural areas than the 3rd but the districts are not so different. Ansonia, where Logan lived when he was serving as state senator, is only 25 miles from Meriden, and both are gritty old mill towns with similar challenges.

As with the rest of the country, Connecticut generally and the Republican Party especially will benefit from much more participation by Black people. Logan's crossing the district line is a small price to pay for that.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.



Posted in New Britain Herald, Columns, Editorials on Monday, 30 May 2022 14:53. Updated: Monday, 30 May 2022 14:56.