U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes told supporters the race was too close to call Tuesday night. Nicole McIsaac / CT Mirror

U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes has won reelection in Connecticut’s 5th District, defeating Republican challenger George Logan by fewer than 2,000 votes following a contentious race that grabbed the national spotlight and saw a record amount of national spending.

With the race too close to call on Tuesday night, the campaigns had been closely watching the race throughout the day Wednesday. Hayes was holding an ultra-thin lead over Logan with the results from the town of Salisbury still unknown. Once the results came in from Salisbury, both the office of the Secretary of the State and the Associated Press called the race for Hayes.

“This was a hard fought race that was unfortunately fueled by millions of dollars in outside spending. But ultimately, the people of this district are the ones to decide who their representative will be – not national Super PACs,” Hayes said in a statement before holding a press conference in Waterbury. “The Fifth District is my home, and I’m humbled to have the opportunity to continue serving you in the House of Representatives.”

Andrew Miano, the spokesman for the Secretary of the State’s office, sent a statement that there were some “technical difficulties” related to returns of the vote totals in Salisbury, which is in the northwestern most corner of the state.

“The inclusion of these vote totals brings the margin of victory for Rep. Hayes to 1,842 votes. This total exceeds any statutory margin of victory that would necessitate a recount,” Miano said. “As such, with the inclusion of Salisbury’s vote totals, there is no statutory requirement for a recount in the 5th Congressional District.”

The numbers from Salisbury widened the congresswoman’s lead and put her margin of victory outside the window of a recount. Connecticut law requires an automatic recount if the margin between the candidates is less than 0.5% of total votes cast. There is no deadline set for completion of the recount.

More than 250,000 votes were cast in the contest. The 0.5% threshold would have been a margin of about 1,250 votes.

Logan scheduled a Thursday morning press conference in New Britain but issued no immediate statement in response to the race being called for Hayes.

Hayes scored a major victory in a race that polls indicated would be a dead heat. While control of the U.S. House is still up for grabs, Democrats generally overperformed in Tuesday’s midterm elections, which historically favor the party out of power. Republicans need a net gain of five seats to win back the majority.

It was Hayes’ closest reelection race since she first ran in 2018 and had won her two previous elections with double-digits margins. Her victory in the 5th District means Connecticut’s congressional delegation will remain all-blue. Republicans have not won a House seat in the state since 2006 and many saw Logan, a former state senator, as their best shot in years.

The 5th District is typically the most competitive race in the state, but this year, the campaign reached new heights with upwards of $12 million in outside spending from both parties that blanketed the region with ads.

Late Tuesday night, the candidates each told their supporters to be patient and to expect an unresolved race that night. Both Hayes and Logan signaled optimism as they held election watch parties three miles away from each other in Waterbury.

But earlier on Wednesday afternoon, while Logan was still narrowly in the lead and before Salisbury’s vote totals were in, his campaign projected confidence about the results.

George Logan showed up to give an update at his watch party in Verdi Restaurant at Western Hills in Waterbury, Connecticut November 08, 2022. CT Public

“We’re closely monitoring the vote count, but given the results reported by the secretary of state, we’re confident that after all the votes are counted we believe George Logan will be the next Congressman from Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District,” Logan campaign senior advisor Liz Kurantowicz said in a statement.

Hayes had not issued any public statements about the outcome of the race until the vote totals were reported in Salisbury.

The issues that animated competitive races across the U.S. came heavily into play in the 5th District, especially debate over the economy, what has contributed to inflation, and access to abortion both at the state and federal levels.

Hayes landed on the political scene two years after winning 2016 National Teacher of the Year. She was a political newcomer, but support from U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy helped her beat out a much more well-known Democrat in the 2018 primary. 

Logan, meanwhile, was new to national politics but no stranger to competitive races. He knocked off a 24-year Democratic incumbent state senator in 2016 and squeaked by in his reelection race after a recount. But he narrowly lost in 2020 and went back into the private sector as a government affairs official for Aquarion, a water company owned by Eversource.

Murphy, who flipped the seat blue in 2006, said the closeness of the race highlights how Connecticut’s 5th District was drawn to be competitive. It has been held by Democrats ever since he first won the seat, but Tuesday’s race was the tightest margin in years.

“I think you’ll see Jahana tracked both Blumenthal and Lamont’s results in the 5th District. The 5th District just tends to split its votes pretty evenly between Republicans and Democrats,” Murphy said in an interview on Wednesday afternoon.

“I think Jahana is such a unique voice in both national politics and in Connecticut politics,” he added.

With no conclusion of the race in sight, Hayes addressed her election watch party at the Courtyard Marriott in Waterbury at midnight. When the event started hours earlier, party-goers occasionally swayed to the upbeat music with people chatting and snacking. Three hours later, the music was still blaring, but the crowd was much calmer as the race tightened.

But when a jubilant Hayes walked into the room, the crowd immediately stood up and surrounded her.

“For 19 months, my character, my integrity, my humanity, my reputation, my name, my family, my record were attacked in this race and I stayed above the fray because I knew my record was enough,” Hayes said to a rowdy and excited room of supporters early Wednesday.

“The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated,” she added. “I’m going to be respectful and not assume anything. … So we’ll wait. I don’t plan on going to sleep.” I watched for months as the narration of my life and work played out.”

An hour earlier, Logan held his own event at Verdi, an Italian restaurant in Waterbury. The atmosphere was more low-key as guests mingled and watched a TV screen airing results from Fox News. Occasionally, they booed or cheered in reaction to Connecticut election results.

But attendees perked up as they were first addressed by New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, followed by the candidate himself. Logan also had a very optimistic view about the trajectory of the race but also reminded his supporters that it would be a long night ahead.

“They are covering this nationwide. This is a big deal. We know how to flip blue districts,” Logan said to cheers on Tuesday evening. “And now we put in the work. The votes have to be counted. I am confident, though, that in the end we will prevail.”

A few voters in Waterbury on Tuesday said they struggled to pick between candidates — ultimately it came down not to party lines but to who they felt were a candidate “of the people.”

Inga Martin voted at the Edward D. Bergin Building in Waterbury after she got off work. Early voting would’ve things easier on that front — she can’t easily take off of work on Election Day. So she voted for the ballot measure, as well as for Hayes.

“She felt more warm,” Martin said of Hayes. “She was more in tune with what I would do.”

Jahana Hayes hugs a supporter at her election night party in Waterbury Tuesday. Nicole McIsaac / CT Mirror

As Republicans sought to attack Democrats over the economy and cost-of-living concerns, some Democratic voters wished the party communicated better on the issue.

Despite the harsh reality of record inflation, Steve Sheron, a voter in Plainville, said that there are plenty of ways in which the Democrats have improved people’s economic lives, but the party has done a bad job of communicating its wins.

“Democrats didn’t tell their story,” Sheron said earlier on Tuesday when casting his vote.

Former Rep. Nancy Johnson, the last Republican to win the 5th District, said the electorate has changed a lot since she represented it more than a decade ago. She represented the state’s now defunct 6th District for 20 years before serving in the 5th. She ultimately lost to Murphy in 2006. Democrats have held the seat ever since.

“A lot has changed. But mostly the electorate has changed. They are being fed much more extreme stuff,” Johnson said at an interview from Logan’s watch party. “We are a state that’s so one-sided you don’t get the other side.”

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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.

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Ginny is CT Mirror's children's issues and housing reporter a Report for America corps member. She covers a range of topics, from education and child welfare to affordable housing and zoning. Ginny grew up in Arkansas and graduated from the University of Arkansas' Lemke School of Journalism in 2017. She began her career at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette where she covered housing, homelessness, and juvenile justice on the investigations team. Along the way Ginny was awarded a 2019 Data Fellowship through the Annenberg Center for Health Journalism at the University of Southern California. She moved to Connecticut in 2021 and covered housing for Hearst Connecticut Media.