Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5th District, and Republican George Logan squared off Thursday night in a second debate that displayed more of the differences between the two candidates on federal abortion legislation and the economy but also magnified the larger national trends dividing their parties.
The debate, which was hosted by Connecticut Public Broadcasting and sponsored by the League of Women Voters at Central Connecticut State University, quickly got off to a more contentious start as the candidates sparred over whether protections for abortion should be applied nationally.
Both candidates support a woman’s right to choose and oppose a national ban on abortion, but the contrasts widened on the issue of more federal legislation to codify protections once established under Roe v. Wade.
Logan told reporters after Tuesday’s first 5th District debate that he did not believe Congress had the constitutional authority to implement those protections nationwide, and he confirmed his position on such legislation from the stage on Thursday.
“I would not vote in favor of codifying Roe v. Wade at the federal level. The decision has been made by the U.S. Supreme Court, and I will do everything in my power to make sure a woman’s right to choose is in no way infringed from what we have here in Connecticut state law,” he said.
Logan noted he has some other differences with Hayes on the issue, noting his support for parental notifications for minors seeking abortions. Hayes said she is in favor of affirming the right to an abortion in federal law and noted her votes in support.
“This has nothing to do with Washington vs. Connecticut,” Hayes said. “I support a woman’s right to choose, full stop. It doesn’t mean that state legislators can decide. It means that the individual can decide for themselves, all the time, regardless of the geography.”
Other policy differences emerged over transgender athletes as well as gun reforms.
When asked about a federal lawsuit over the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference permitting transgender athletes to compete in high school sports, Logan said he supports LGBTQ rights but believes it is “unfair” to have transgender women competing in girls sports because of students trying to get college scholarships.
Hayes pushed back that “you can’t discriminate against gender identity.” She argued that Logan cannot have it both ways on state’s rights and that Connecticut has already decided on the matter of transgender athletes.
And like Tuesday’s debate on WTNH, Logan did not directly respond to a question of whether he would vote to restore a federal assault weapons ban if elected to Congress. Hayes said she supports such a ban as well as universal background checks, while Logan focused more on addressing gun violence and rebuilding police officer ranks rather than implementing more gun reforms.
The debate covered a number of national topics that further displayed tensions within the two parties that are happening in other competitive races across the country.
Noting that Connecticut and Washington are controlled by “one-party rule,” Logan argued that Democrats have not done much to tamp down rising costs spurred by inflation. He took aim at the “excessive spending packages” passed under the Biden administration.
“They’ve come up with an alphabet soup of programs to fix things, but it hasn’t worked,” Logan said. “The funding is not getting down to the level of helping people who truly need it.”
Hayes defended Democratic-led legislation that moved with slim majorities in Congress and no Republican support, including a federal pandemic relief package, bipartisan laws on infrastructure and gun reform, and a bill that tackles lowering prescription drug costs and other policies related to health care and climate change.
“If you consider the most significant legislation passed since the Great Society ‘nothing,’ I think that’s all that people need to know,” Hayes said. “If you consider that ‘nothing,’ then I don’t understand what this role is about for you.”
Thursday’s showdown grew feistier as the candidates took further shots at one another’s records: Hayes’ two terms in Congress and Logan’s four years in the state Senate.
Hayes claimed that Logan did not want to discuss his tenure in the state legislature because “he did nothing.” Logan countered that he worked within the parameters of an evenly divided state Senate and that he helped work on the budget alongside Democrats by passing “bonding cap to limit the amount of borrowing that the state can do.”
He similarly took shots at Hayes’ congressional record and linked her to national Democratic figures like President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
But both candidates argued that they should not be tied to every policy position of their endorsers just because of that support.
During a question about support for Medicare and Social Security, Hayes referenced recent comments made by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., that a GOP majority would use talks on raising the debt limit to push for spending cuts that could undermine those domestic programs.
“There they go again, trying to put me in that box,” Logan said in a reference to his campaign’s first TV ad, where he stands next to a box labeled “typical Republican” and says he “won’t fit in this box.”
When Logan was initially asked whether he’d back any cuts to those social safety net programs, he briefly answered he’d make them “as strong as possible” before quickly pivoting back to the economy. But he later added that he would work in Congress to bolster those benefits.
“I’m not interested in sunsetting the benefits of Social Security,” Logan said. “I will fight hard to maintain Social Security from the inside.”
Logan, meanwhile, pointed to Hayes’ endorsement from the Working Families Party, which has tweeted in support of the “Defund the Police” movement. The congresswoman’s name will appear both on the Democratic line as well as the one for the Working Families Party.
Hayes, who has previously said she supports both funding for police as well as accountability, ended the debate with a reprise of Logan’s line.
“They understand my position on police, so I guess I’m just not a typical Working Families Party candidate,” Hayes said. “I guess I just don’t fit in their box.”
The Connecticut Mirror/Connecticut Public Radio federal policy reporter position is made possible, in part, by funding from the Robert and Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation and Engage CT.