U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5th District, and Republican opponent George Logan at a debate in Waterbury, Oct. 18, 2022.

Rep. Jahana Hayes is running for a third term against Republican opponent George Logan in a campaign that has garnered significant national attention and has so far attracted nearly $7.2 million in outside spending.

The race, which could play a role in determining which party controls the U.S. House next year, is growing more contentious amid a slew of attack ads and a couple of heated debates. Abortion rights have become one of the biggest flashpoints, especially with Democrats prioritizing the issue after the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade. But Republicans still see rising costs and inflation as a key wedge issue for them.

Republicans view the 5th District as their best chance to flip a House seat in Connecticut, a state that has been represented entirely by Democrats at the congressional level since 2009. The district covers Hayes’ hometown of Waterbury as well as much of the western part of the state that borders Massachusetts and New York.

National Republicans made an early investment in the district with an office to increase outreach to communities of color. Logan also has experience winning tough districts, defeating a longtime incumbent for a state Senate seat in 2016, though he narrowly lost four years later.

But the race is still a challenge for Republicans since the seat has been represented by Democrats for 16 years. In the 2006 election, Democrat Chris Murphy, who is now a senator, defeated 13-term GOP Rep. Nancy Johnson. And national Democrats are also heavily investing in protecting Hayes’ seat and are outspending GOP counterparts.

[Election 2022: Everything Connecticut residents need to know before voting this year]

Hayes, who was the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, became the first Black woman to represent Connecticut in Congress. She won her 2018 and 2020 races by double-digit margins. President Joe Biden also saw victory in the district with a similar margin.

The two-term congresswoman has been highlighting her record, including the passage of Democrats’ legislative efforts over the past two years on infrastructure, gun reform, pandemic relief and prescription drug costs and the work she contributed.

Logan, the son of Guatemalan immigrants who had roots in Jamaica, is seeking to return to government after leaving the state Senate in 2021. He is currently a government affairs official for Aquarion, a water company owned by Eversource.

Abortion has become a heated topic in the campaign with emerging differences between the two candidates.

At the second 5th District debate last week, Logan said he will ensure that “a woman’s right to choose is in no way infringed from what we have here in Connecticut state law.” He opposes a national abortion ban and believes the issue should be left to the states. Logan also supports parental notifications for minors who seek an abortion.

His differences on abortion widened with Hayes on nationwide protections. Logan said he would not vote to codify access to abortion at the federal level and would instead focus on protecting Connecticut law that upholds those rights.

Hayes argues that the decision should be left between a patient and the doctor. Over the summer, she voted to codify abortion protections into federal law, which would restore the right up until fetal viability.

Republicans argue that abortion is taking precedence over other pressing issues like inflation and crime. Logan and others in his party believe that trillions of dollars in spending by congressional Democrats have contributed to rising costs around the country.

The intense national focus on the 5th District is evident through the high-profile surrogates and supporters coming to the area.

Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has visited the RNC’s Black and Hispanic community center in New Britain to support Logan. He has also gotten a fundraising boost from top leaders in Congress, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik.

For Democrats, Vice President Kamala Harris also traveled to New Britain to discuss threats to abortion access and other reproductive care at an official event that also functioned as a campaign stop.

The two candidates view the race through different lenses: Hayes wants to keep building on her party’s legislative efforts and addressing inequities exposed during the pandemic, while Logan sees it as a chance to give Connecticut Republicans a voice back in Congress.

There has not been any recent public polling, but election forecasters rate the race differently. FiveThirtyEight has Hayes as “favored” to win, while RealClearPolitics and others have it as a “tossup.”

While Hayes has maintained her fundraising advantage, the biggest players in the race are national outside groups that are heavily investing in their respective candidates.

Super PACs and committees in both parties have spent a total of about $7.2 million in the 5th District, according to an analysis of party spending from California Target Book. Democrats are currently outspending the GOP by a little more than $1 million.

Avatar photo

Lisa HagenFederal Policy Reporter

Lisa Hagen is CT Mirror and CT Public's shared Federal Policy Reporter. Based in Washington, D.C., she focuses on the impact of federal policy in Connecticut and covers the state’s congressional delegation. Lisa previously covered national politics and campaigns for U.S. News & World Report, The Hill and National Journal’s Hotline. She is a New Jersey native and graduate of Boston University.