Mark Barden of Sandy Hook Promise at the White House after the Parkland, Fla., shootings. C-SPAN

Washington – Sandy Hook Promise founders Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden on Friday said they have decided against running for Rep. Elizabeth Esty’s congressional seat.

“Having both lost children in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, we feel compelled to be with our surviving children during their high school years – we know all too well how precious and short time with family can be,” Hockley and Barden said in a joint statement.

The Sandy Hook Promise founders had been wooed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. They had also been urged to run by state Democrats for the 5th District congressional seat, which will be vacated at the end of the year because Esty decided she wouldn’t run for re-election after being harshly criticized about her handling of a chief of staff accused of abuse.

“Over the last few weeks, we have been immersed in this unique and exciting opportunity and have given serious consideration to all the implications that come with such a responsibility, should one of us choose to run,” the joint statement said. “Unfortunately, now is not the time.”

Hockley and Barden also said they wanted to continue their work with Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit created after the Dec. 14, 2012 Newtown massacre that aims to tighten gun laws and promote school safety.

While Hockley and Barden decided not to run, former Newtown Rabbi Shaul Praver announced his intention to enter the race.

Nicole Hockley of Sandy Hool Promise at the White House. C-SPAN

Praver, 58, was the rabbi of Newtown’s Congregation Adath Israel for 13 years, responding with other clergy to the shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012. In a release announcing his candidacy, Praver said he “went on to help lead the charge for common-sense gun reform.

“When I was called to the Sandy Hook firehouse to counsel families whose children and loved ones were murdered, I answered the call,” Praver said. “When I was called to advocate for sane gun laws, I answered the call.”

Praver lives outside of the 5th District in Fairfield. The U.S. Constitution allows candidates to the U.S. House to live outside the district they want to represent, but they must live in the state.

Praver told the Connecticut Mirror his residency does not matter because “my entire career has been in Newtown.”

Praver called himself “a bold, progressive candidate running as a Democrat.”

He said “sane and comprehensive gun reform,” solving the opioid epidemic, and expanding public education to include pre-K through four-year college are among his legislative priorities.

He told the Mirror he wanted to run for Congress because he wants to “revitalize” the institution and thinks it needs “somebody with a sense of integrity and devotion to the people who you serve.”

The other declared Democratic candidate in the race is former Simsbury first selectman Mary Glassman, considered a moderate.

Rabbi Shaul Praver Courtesy of Rabbi Shaul Praver

Praver said he currently works as a prison chaplain for the Connecticut Department of Correction and travels throughout the state.

Like several candidates who have entered the race for the 5th District seat, Praver has not held elective office. Other political newcomers include Republicans Liz Peterson of Simsbury and Ruby O’Neill of Southbury.

The other Republican in the race is former Meriden Mayor Manny Santos, who declared his candidacy before Esty bowed out.

Candidates for the 5th District seat who receive support from at least 15 percent of the delegates to the district party conventions can qualify for the ballot in an anticipated August primary election.

This story was updated at 5:50 p.m. with the announcement by Barden and Hockley.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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