Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty LAW ’85, a Democrat, and Republican businessman Mark Greenberg are locked in a fierce battle for Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District.
Both Democrats and Republicans have held the 5th District in recent years. With boundaries encircling conservative areas of the state’s northwest corner and more liberal towns and cities such as Esty’s hometown of Cheshire, the 5th District is the closest Connecticut has to a swing district. What is more, 43 percent of the 5th District’s registered voters are not affiliated with a party, making it Connecticut’s most independent district.
Esty previously served in the Connecticut House of Representatives between 2008 and 2010, before defeating State Senator Andrew Roraback in the 2012 general election for her current seat.
“I knew of her even before she was a Congresswoman,” said Kenneth Jackson ’17, a member of the Yale Political Union and a Connecticut resident. “She always seemed to have the best interests of Connecticut in mind.”
While in office, Esty has compiled a liberal record. She has supported the Affordable Care Act and gun control legislation, such as the Minds for Safer Communities Act of 2014, which provides grants to states that strengthen gun regulations for the mentally ill. Esty’s advocacy of gun control has come in the wake of the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which is part of the 5th District.
Esty has also cosponsored the STEM Education Act of 2014, a bill that added computerscience to the definition of STEM fields in determining federal grants.
While Esty’s background is largely in politics, Greenberg’s is in business. An independent businessman and real estate developer, Greenberg founded MGRE, one of the largest real estate management firms in the Northeast, and has helped develop numerous commercial and retail properties.
Greenberg has run for the 5th District seat during the last two election cycles, spending millions of dollars of his own money to support his campaigns.
“It’s not that I want to run, it’s that I have to run,” Greenberg said in an interview with the Hartford Courant Editorial Board on Tuesday. “This is still the greatest country in the world, but there are still things about it that we need to fix.”
During the Republican primary, many political experts have considered Greenberg to be one of the most socially conservative candidates considering his attitudes toward gun control, abortion and what he refers to as “the un-Affordable Care Act.” Greenberg has extensive Tea Party support and was recently endorsed by Connecticut Senate Minority leader John McKinney. McKinney’s 2014 campaign is particularly focused on reducing the size of government, decreasing tax burden and growing the economy.
With significant support on both sides of the aisle, the 5th District race is currently the fourth most expensive campaign in the country and the most expensive congressional race in Connecticut’s history, according to the Center for Responsible Politics.
The race has been tense, with both sides accusing the other of various forms of misconduct. Recently, Esty’s campaign claimed that Greenberg pulled out of two of four proposed debates. In response, the Greenberg campaign issued a press release stating that the debates had never been scheduled and accusing Esty of dishonesty.
“Unfortunately for the voters in the 5th District, her campaign will do anything to distract attention from the failed policies of Dan Malloy, Barack Obama and Elizabeth Esty which have hurt so many families in the 5th District,” the release read.
Yale College Democrats Elections Coordinator Tyler Blackmon ’16, a staff columnist for the News, who plans to canvass for Esty this Saturday along with the rest of the Yale Dems, said that he was most swayed by Esty’s willingness to fight for gun control following the tragedy at Sandy Hook.
“From what I can tell, gun safety legislation was never something she thought she was going to be too involved in,” he said. “After the shooting, she became a national leader on this issue and played a very active role. She didn’t have to take center stage, but she did.”
The candidates’ first debate occurred in Danbury yesterday at 7 p.m. Jara Burnett of the League of Women Voters of Connecticut served as moderator.