Vice President Mike Pence stands and applauds President Trump during the State of the Union speech Tuesday. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi remained seated. C-Span
Vice President Mike Pence stands and applauds President Trump during the State of the Union speech last year. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi remained seated. C-Span

Washington –  Connecticut lawmakers’ guests at President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech come from varied backgrounds and walks of life, but they all have one thing in common – they represent issues that are high on the lawmakers’ political agendas.

Tyler Reeb and his daughter Hailey.

The choice of a State of the Union guest is often based on a wish to send a message or highlight an issue.

For example, Sen. Chris Murphy, who once represented Newtown in the U.S. House and is a leading gun control advocate in Congress, has invited Deborah Davis, an organizer with Mothers United Against Violence who lost her son to gun fire in 2010.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who sits on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and has worked on military suicide issues, has invited the uncle of  Marine Staff Sgt. Tyler Reeb, who grew up in New Canaan and took his life last year.

“Tyler Reeb was an American combat hero whose death was by his own hand, caused by the invisible wounds of war, like 6,000 veterans who die by suicide every year,” Blumenthal said. “He was a father, son, brother, friend, and I am honored that his uncle Chris Reeb will represent his family as my guest at the State of the Union.”

John Beauregard, the president and CEO of the Eastern CT Workforce Investment Board, will be Rep. Joe Courtney’s guest.
John Beauregard, the president and CEO of the Eastern CT Workforce Investment Board, will be Rep. Joe Courtney’s guest.

The guest of Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5th District, will be Newtown resident Bridget Sclafani, who lost her husband Paul to brain cancer in 2018. The Sclafanis fought insurance companies who denied services for Paul’s treatment and care. After he died, Bridget started a foundation in her husband’s honor to fund research and help other families who find themselves in the same predicament.

“No one should have to battle insurance companies while battling cancer,” said Hayes.

Rep. Joe Courtney, D-3rd District, has invited John Beauregard, the president and CEO of the Eastern CT Workforce Investment Board, a nonprofit that strives to ensure there are training programs to meet the needs of local employers, including Electric Boat.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, 3rd District, has invited Kristen Whitney-Daniels of Shelton, a 29-year-old diabetic who has had to ration her insulin since she turned 26 and could no longer remain on her parents’ health insurance policy. She volunteers for an organization that fights to bring down the cost of insulin.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro has invited Kristen Whitney-Daniels, who is fighting the high cost of insulin.

The guest of Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, is Gary Mendell, who lost his son to drugs and is the founder and CEO of Shatterproof, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting the nation’s addiction crisis.

“Combating the opioid crisis must be a bipartisan priority,” said Himes, who vowed to continue seeking federal funding for organizations like Shatterproof.

Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, is not bringing a guest this year. Larson instead gave his guest ticket to a Republican colleague.

Trump’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night will be delivered to a joint session of Congress in the U.S. House chamber, the scene of the recent approval of two articles of impeachment linked to charges the president pressured Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Cabinet secretaries and Supreme Court Justices will also attend the address, which was watched by 47 million people last year.

The speech is expected to be highly dramatic because the Senate impeachment trial will wrap up the next day with a likely acquittal of the president.

The speech will also be given the day after the Iowa caucuses, which may help identify a Democratic front-runner to face Trump in the Nov. 3 election.

Sandwiched between these two events, Trump’s address to the nation is expected to make reference to Democratic efforts to remove him from office.

But he may also offer to work with Democrats on issues like reducing drug prices and rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure.

“We’re really looking to giving a very, very positive message,” Trump said during a Super Bowl party at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Fla.

The president, however, held out little hope Democrats would work with him in the wake of the bitter impeachment fight.

Trump is also expected to reference the strength of the U.S. economy and low unemployment numbers.

But he’s open to criticism on his handling of Iran and other foreign policy issues and, while the GOP-controlled Senate may not remove him from office, the president will still have to deal with the fallout from his impeachment and lingering questions about his dealings with Ukraine.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been tapped by Democrats to give the party’s response to Trump’s speech, a move that shows the importance Democrats place on winning Michigan in the presidential election.

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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10 Comments

  1. I think the message has already been sent and received loudly and clearly: remove Trump at all costs.

    1. The message has been sent and rejected by the American people and we get to speak to that message again in 2020.

  2. If Blumenthal is so for veteran health why did he vote against allowing vets to go to doctors other than the VA? Why did he vote against holding the VA secretary responsible for long waits during the Obama administration. Why did he vote against raising VA disability and Retirement pay? Another camera moment captured by the democrat party favorites?

  3. What all of these “guests” should realize is that under the leadership of President Trump all of the problems facing them and all Americans have been addressed and the lives of all Americans improved with greater (real) hope for an even better future. The reality of the facts speak for themselves, yet the belief in and production of theatrics goes on.

    1. Yes. You are absolutely right, “all of the problems facing them and all Americans have been addressed”. What was I thinking? Well, I still don’t have to watch it then, all has been addressed.

  4. I personally have no interest in watching his state of the union. He has no credibility. And his cocky and arrogant delivery is awful. He doesn’t talk about policies and issues important. Healthcare , the number one issue affecting ALL Americans, he cares nothing about. He said he had “a beautiful plan, a lot more coverage for a lot less money”. Actually, all the Republicans were implying that. Well, obviously that was a big charade. Then he said “Republicans are the healthcare party ” and “wait until after I’m reelected” and we will see great healthcare. And the insane deficits he’s generating. Trickle down economics with his huge tax rate decreases for corporations, plus his huge spending increases! Yeah, right! From a guy who said he was going to eliminate, actually eliminate! Our entire deficit when he is president. What a con man. And his Base, they just cheer wildly for him, like robots.

    1. You forgot cancer. Trump causes cancer.

      FYI, the deficits were a team effort with your team yelling as loudly for more spending on their projects as Republicans on theirs. I do acknowledge the tax cut which didn’t help at all.

      1. No, Trump doesn’t cause cancer. But he says windmills do. He says “he knows more about windmills than anybody else”. Of course he does. One of about 50 things he has said he knows more about than anybody else, including ISIS. He said he even knows more about that than the U.S. Generals. He has “infinite wisdom”, don’t you know!
        Trump said he was going to ELIMINATE our deficit in his time as president. Period. And that it would be “very easy”. Same words “very easy” as healthcare, infrastructure, trade wars tariffs, campaign finance reforms , etc etc. He has accomplished very little in his term. Even while having first 2 years with all 3 branches Republican.

  5. I don’t care one bit for these dog and pony shows of having guests to promote agendas of partisan politics. To me, it’s stupid.
    What we all have to do is stop contributing to the chaos. I finally, after a long hiatus, started reading Ct Mirror again. I wanted to see comments on issues again. It’s amazing how uninformed the ultra partisan folks seem. People just wing it.
    Trump has caused everyday chaos like never seen before in our country’s entire history. We have to vote him out. He is unbelievably disruptive, every stinking day. Always yapping, always insulting, always degrading. Doesn’t he ever work? Doesn’t he ever shut up?Plus, he is so uninformed. I mean, it’s very apparent he hardly reads, hardly learns. And it is very clear he has been like this his entire life. Talk about a spoiled, blueblood brat.

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