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Five years after New Haven voters elected Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, to the Connecticut General Assembly for the first time, the Elm City representative is now looking to expand her role in Hartford.

Earlier this year, Porter launched her candidacy for majority leader of the Democratic caucus in Connecticut’s General Assembly in 2021. The position, second in command in the chamber, is chosen through a vote of the newly elected Democratic caucus, assuming the party retains its majority in historically left-leaning Connecticut. Porter told the News that she decided to run after a few of her colleagues approached her last year to ask her to run. Although she hadn’t previously considered mounting a campaign, she eventually decided to run in hopes of providing fresh leadership in the state House, Porter said.

“It started last year when I received the first call,” Porter said. “It wasn’t anything I ever wanted to do. It wasn’t on my bucket list my wish list or my dream list. I was approached. People saw something in me that I hadn’t seen in myself as it relates to leadership and legislating and being politically involved at this level.”

Before the new caucus convenes in January 2021, Porter said she will spend time knocking on doors and phone banking for many of her legislative colleagues. Given the selection process for the position of majority leader, Porter added that she plans to focus on earning the confidence of many potential members of the caucus, including candidates running for the first time. She will also need to prove her fundraising prowess and secure her own re-election in New Haven, which she has done three times.

If selected, Porter said she hopes to “bring unity” to the caucus and create an organized system for advancing legislation. Porter told the News that she listened to many groups of constituencies different than her own in New Haven while touring the state last year shortly prior to the 2018 midterm elections. Those conversations in turn motivated her bid for majority leader and are helping her build a policy platform, Porter explained.

“The things that drive me are going to be different as I go from district to district.” Porter said. “And that is what I’m doing over the next year and a half in more detail, finding out what [my colleagues] needs and concerns are related to their constituents.”

Still more than a year away from the caucus selection process, Porter cited support from Democratic colleagues in the General Assembly — including Anne Hughes, D-Easton, Roland Lemar, D-New Haven, Dorinda Borer, D-West Haven and Joshua Hall D-Hartford. She also has at least one opponent, Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford.

Hughes and Hall both highlighted Porter’s leadership skills and her ability to bring people together in interviews with the News. Hall said that Porter would be able to give direction to the caucus and make legislative issues meaningful to many people.

“She has a personal story that transcends a lot of the things that can happen in a General Assembly,” Hall told the News. “Her personal story, her passion to be a leader, to be the voice of those who are voiceless in a lot of these circumstances, I think it would be good.”

Hughes praised Porter’s ability to connect with people of many backgrounds and listen to Connecticut citizens who are often ignored as some of the primary reasons for her support. In particular, Hughes said Porter demonstrated her leadership at the end of Connecticut’s most recent legislative session. Porter was one of the most impactful backers of a minimum-wage increase bill that ended up passing at the very end of the session, Hughes said. She added that as Republicans tried to stall and fail the bill, Porter was instrumental in Democrats’ success of “outdetermining and outlasting” the Republicans.

Hughes and Porter also said that having female leaders was also an important goal for the next few years and added that selecting Porter for majority leader would be a great step forward.

“She’s got a fortitude and has lived first hand experience with these systems and policies that have been systematically marginalizing full swaths of our communities, especially poor communities,” Hughes told the News. “I’m really excited to have leadership stand strong. She fights the fight, talks the talk and walks the walk.”

The 2020 regular session of the Connecticut General Assembly will convene next Feb. 5.

Emmett Shell | emmett.shell@yale.edu