Elizabeth Esty Wins House Seat
by Gabriella Blake on Friday, November 16th, 2012
On Tuesday November 6th, Elizabeth Esty, mother of Jonathan Esty (I), won Connecticut’s 5th district Congressional election. With 52% of the vote from 41 different cities and towns, Esty, the Democratic rival to Republican candidate Andrew Roraback, overcame her position as a relative unknown to win the race.
After graduating from Harvard and Yale Law School, Esty spent the next couple of years focusing on her job as a lawyer, first in Washington D.C. and later in Connecticut. Settling down with her husband and three children in their home in Cheshire, CT, Esty got involved with her community through volunteer service. In 2004 she held workshops to help seniors on fixed incomes afford to stay in their homes while researching tax reform efforts across the country in order to resolve community tensions over the education budget.
Andrew Roraback, meanwhile, was a longtime member of the Connecticut General Assembly, serving as a state senator from his native Litchfield County for 17 years. Describing himself as a “New England Republican,” he took a moderate-to-liberal stance on social issues, including gay marriage, abortion rights, and medical marijuana. He remained a fiscal conservative, calling for an end to President Obama’s stimulus spending policies in favor of deficit reduction and a smaller government role in the economy.
An attorney and former state representative, Esty focused her campaign on health care, Social Security, and Medicare policies, all issues relevant to Connecticut families. Both she and her opponent advocated raising the payroll tax income cap to help ensure the solvency of Social Security. But Esty and Roraback consistently disagreed on health care issues. Esty fully supported President Obama’s health care reform law, but acknowledged that it was imperfect. She praised the measures to help citizens with preexisting conditions and to allow younger members of families to stay on their parents’ plan until their late twenties. Roraback consistently opposed the law and called for its repeal, considering it both wasteful spending and governmental overreach.
Between TV ads, radio broadcasts, town hall meetings, and local fundraisers, both the Esty and Roraback campaigns were firing on all cylinders. Both enjoyed considerable financial support from out-of-state political action committees. Roraback received significant campaign donations from House Speaker Boehner’s Super PAC, as well as over $1 million from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s newly created PAC intended to elect moderate candidates around the country. EMILY’s List, a women’s advocacy group that provides support to pro-choice female candidates backed Esty’s campaign, along with the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Between expenditures by individual candidates’ campaigns and independent action groups, over $14 million was spent in the 5th district race–now the most expensive Congressional election in Connecticut history.
Esty relied on her role as a parent to support her connection to middle class families, while Roraback leaned on his long legislative history to buttress his claims of bipartisanship.
In victory, Esty also supported reaching across the aisle. Though a proud member of the Democratic Party, Esty said in her election night speech: “regardless of whether we’re Democrats, Republicans, or Independents, we are all Americans.” She also noted that regardless of the competitive and occasionally combative atmosphere of the campaign, all candidates were fighting towards the same goal of “a better future.” Her message went on: “In Washington, we must put partisanship aside, put principle over politics, and work together to find common ground.”
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