Jahana Hayes visiting the U.S. Embassy in Namibia as 2016 national teacher of the year. U.S. Embassy via Flickr
Jahana Hayes visiting the U.S. Embassy in Namibia as 2016 national teacher of the year. U.S. Embassy via Flickr

Washington – The pool of candidates for Rep. Elizabeth Esty’s congressional seat grew again on Wednesday as Waterbury teacher Jahana Hayes joined the race as a Democrat.

“My decision to run is inspired by the people in my community,” Hayes said. “I am running because I see myself in every student, teacher, mom, sister, daughter, friend, neighbor and stranger I meet, and their story is my story. I want to earn the trust of the people in this district and be the person to carry their concerns to Washington.”

Hayes, who was the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, has her own compelling personal story.

She grew up amid poverty and drugs in Waterbury and became pregnant when she was 17. But, with help of some of her teachers, Hayes finished high school and eventually enrolled in community college.

She went on to earn a four-year degree and became a high school history teacher at Waterbury’s John F. Kennedy High School. She is now the talent and professional development supervisor for Waterbury public schools.

Hayes traveled the country and abroad, giving speeches, after she was selected Teacher of the Year by an association of chief school officers in 2016. But, like several other candidates for the 5th District seat, Hayes, who lives in Wolcott, has no experience in public office.

Esty chose not to run for re-election after she was the target of a firestorm of criticism for the way she handled a staffer accused of abuse.

Others running for that open seat are Republicans Liz Peterson of Simsbury, Ruby O’Neill of Southbury and John Pistone of Brookville. Like Hayes, these GOP candidates have not held political office before.

Neither has Democratic candidate Newtown Rabbi Shaul Praver.

Former Meriden Mayor Manny Santos, a Republican, is also running, as are Democrats Mary Glassman, a former selectman in Simsbury, and Emmanuel Sanchez, a New Britain alderman.

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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