CT-03: Incumbent Democrat Rosa DeLauro seeks to defeat most formidable opponent in years to win 16th term
Seeking to serve her 16th term as the representative of Connecticut’s 3rd Congressional District, Democratic Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro faces what could be the closest race of her career.
Since her first election in 1990, DeLauro has comfortably held on to her seat every two years without much campaigning. Now, after a year that has featured heated debates over New Haven’s Christopher Columbus statue and policing that forced the Elm City congresswoman to strike stances at odds with some local communities, DeLauro must take on the district’s most well-funded Republican nominee in years, Margaret Streicker. Yet DeLauro has appeared relatively unnerved and has taken to the election with increased campaigning, all while touting her plans for addressing the pandemic, the country’s current health care system and climate change.
“What government is about is helping to create opportunities for people and to give them a better chance and a better life,” DeLauro told the News in an interview. “I think I have demonstrated over the years, including now with regards to the pandemic and health and economic crisis, that I’m with [the public].”
DeLauro’s roots in New Haven run deep. She grew up in Wooster Square, daughter to two parents who served as alders for the Italian American neighborhood. DeLauro first entered politics in 1976, initially as a staff member for the late New Haven Mayor Frank Logue and later as his reelection campaign manager in 1978. Before becoming a member of Congress, she worked as U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s campaign manager from 1979 to 1980 and chief of staff from 1981 to 1987. Before running for Congress, she also served as the first executive director of Emily’s List — a political action committee that aims to elect more pro-choice women to elected office — from 1989 to 1990.
DeLauro has often pointed to her Elm City roots during her campaign. She told the News she understands the everyday needs of the “middle class.”
“I grew up in a working class family. I saw my parents struggle everyday. I know hard work.” DeLauro said. “I always fight for middle-class families. The rich and corporations don’t need the breaks.”
DeLauro is facing the most formidable candidate she has ever faced according to Kenneth Long, political science professor at the University of Saint Joseph. According to Long, Streicker is the first Republican candidate in years to run television advertisements and have an “aggressive” door-to-door canvassing operation.
“[Streicker] can afford to run a much more serious campaign than any campaign has run in recent memory.” Long said. “[DeLauro is] responding to criticism that comes her way, and normally she wouldn’t face well-publicized criticism.”
The criticism has forced DeLauro to run an ad campaign to respond to allegations made in pro-Streicker ads that portray the congresswoman as a supporter of defunding the police and a career politician who has benefited financially from her time in office and made efforts to influence White House officials through bribes.
If reelected, DeLauro told the News her top priority will be to address the pandemic by focusing on the larger structural problems that have allowed COVID-19 to wreck communities. That means addressing the shortcomings of the country’s health care system.
DeLauro said she is a strong supporter of universal health care, which she told the News is imperative in efforts to increase access to medical services. The pandemic, DeLauro said, has uncovered many of the racial disparities within the country’s current system.
Last year, DeLauro proposed the Medicare for America Act, a bill that would create a public program to compete with private insurance. The bill would have created a public health insurance plan that covered dental, vision, hearing and mental health care. It would have also banned insurance companies from contracting with individuals on the proposed health care policy, only allowing private health care that measures up to the public option to be available through employers.
The bill did not reach a vote on the House floor, but DeLauro said she hopes a health care plan under Joe Biden would move in that direction.
The congresswoman has also been one of the largest proponents of environmental reform in Congress, calling the issue “the biggest” facing the country. She was one of 67 House legislators to originally co-sponsor the Green New Deal, a congressional resolution that aims to source 100 percent of the country’s electricity through renewable resources and zero-emissions power within 10 years of its implementation. DeLauro told the News the Green New Deal represents an opportunity to “invest in green jobs [and] green technology.”
Amid a year ripe with discussion on policing, DeLauro has said she will support “banning chokeholds” and “racial profiling” in police departments. In a speech she gave on the House floor in support of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in June, she called for a reorganization of law enforcement funding. Yet despite some activists’ calls for reallocating police funds, the native New Havener told the News, “I am opposed to defunding the police.”
Yet, the city’s law enforcement community has shown some apprehension towards the DeLauro candidacy. In a rare endorsement earlier this month, Elm City Local, the city’s police union, backed Republican nominee Streicker instead of DeLauro. The union’s president, Florencio Cotto said, “Margaret understands public safety isn’t achieved by political pandering.”
DeLauro has also alienated some within New Haven’s sizable Italian American community. After years of opposing changes to the Wooster Square Columbus statue and a name change of Christopher Columbus Academy on Grand Avenue, DeLauro joined New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker in calling for the removal of the statue following contentious protests in late May.
As a result, the Italian American Heritage Group of New Haven announced in mid-October that the group has endorsed Streicker, who has voiced her support for keeping the statue.
DeLauro defended her Italian heritage in a debate two weeks ago.
“I am the daughter of an immigrant family that could only have dreamed that their child would end up serving in the United States Congress,” she said. “My roots are deep in the Wooster Square community.”
DeLauro remains the favorite among many of the city’s political leaders, both inside and outside of City Hall. Planned Parenthood, the Connecticut Working Families Party, Everytown for Gun Safety and several local labor union chapters have also thrown their support behind her.
Elicker, who has worked closely with DeLauro to ensure COVID-19 relief for the city and fight Trump administration’s controversial decision on transgender athletes, has also thrown his support behind the incumbent congresswoman.
“Her involvement in negotiation at the capital was important to helping us find a resolution when the Trump administration was trying to take away our transgender athlete policy,” Elicker told the news. “She’s also been vital to making sure the city has gotten COVID funding relief.”
In Congress, DeLauro serves in Democratic leadership as co-chair of the House Democratic Steering Committee, which helps assign House members to committees and advises party leaders.
DeLauro succeeded Bruce Morrison as the 3rd District’s representative in 1991.