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As inflation concerns grow, Jahana Hayes says she takes 'nothing for granted' in 5th District

Connecticut’s 5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes waiting to be called on set with Host Lucy Nalpathanchil on Where We Live at CT Public studio in Hartford, Connecticut September 27, 2022.
Joe Amon
Connecticut Public
Connecticut’s 5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes waits to be called on set with host Lucy Nalpathanchil on Where We Live at CT Public's studio in Hartford, Conn., Sept, 27, 2022.

The 5th District is considered Connecticut’s most competitive congressional seat, with incumbent Democrat Jahana Hayes running for reelection against Republican George Logan.

In 2018, Hayes made history as the first Black woman to represent Connecticut in Congress.

This year, she’s seeking a third term as America battles inflation and political leaders at the national and state level debate topics like education and transgender rights.

Speaking Tuesday on Connecticut Public Radio’s Where We Live, Hayes said her message to voters is her record in Congress, including voting for the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package Congress passed in March 2021.

“This district has always been competitive, and I never take it for granted, so I expect every election that I’ll have to work for it,” Hayes said. “You cannot win the 5th District with just Democrat votes or just Republican votes – you really have to have a much broader appeal.”

Challenger George Logan, a former state senator, is scheduled to come on the program Tuesday, Oct. 18.

Here are some highlights from Connecticut Public’s interview with Hayes.

Calling out monopolies, Hayes says America needs to 'look differently at the way we do business'

Hayes said a small percentage of companies control an inordinate amount of wealth, which she believes can drive up costs and introduce supply chain instability.

“We have major companies bringing in record profits,” Hayes said. “When we look at the price of groceries, the meat-packing industry has a monopoly.”

Over several decades, four large beef-packing firms have amassed control of more than 80% of the U.S. beef market, according toTimemagazine.

Hayes said, “We really have to look differently at the way we do business in this country,” adding that increasing America’s energy independence also needs to be prioritized to ensure “everything is not contingent upon the whims of the global economy.”

Hayes defends pandemic stimulus funding, asking, ‘Who would you have left behind?’

When asked if various stimulus packages passed during the pandemic have overheated the economy and led to inflation, Hayes said her response is simple.

“Who would you have left behind?” she asked. “Should it have been the small businesses? The parents who needed child care?”

“As we are recovering, we are seeing communities that are relying on the funds that were released through the American Rescue Plan,” Hayes said. “It kept hospitals open. It kept first responders on the job. It helped schools reopen safely.”

When asked if America was headed into a recession, Hayes said, “I hear that from economists, but then you see the job numbers and the rate of growth. And we, in some areas, are back to pre-pandemic strength.”

While the U.S. labor market remains resilient, mortgage rates have jumped, home sales have slumped and credit cards and auto loans have gotten pricier.

And as the Federal Reserve has rapidly increased interest rates, many economists fear a recession is inevitable in the coming months — and with it job losses that could cause hardship for households already hurt the worst by inflation.

Hayes said the American economy is juggling “all these variables that we never had to consider: a global pandemic, a Russian invasion, an economy that’s recovering.

“In some areas we see strength, in other areas there’s need for improvement,” Hayes said.

'Curriculums are not decided in Congress'

Hayes, who was recognized as the National Teacher of the Year in 2016 when she was a high school teacher in Waterbury, said she believes the current conservative political rhetoric around teachers and classroom materials is “dangerous.”

Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel recently attended a campaign event along with Logan, where Republican U.S. Senate candidate Leora Levy spoke about the “indoctrination of our children” she claims is happening in Connecticut schools. Meanwhile, GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski has introduced what he is calling a “parental bill of rights.”

“This attack on teachers – on public education – is extremely dangerous,” Hayes said.

“Curriculums are not decided in Congress. They are decided locally. Parents are a part of those decisions,” Hayes said. “An individual classroom teacher doesn’t make the decision on what books to use or what to teach.”

Challenges to classroom materials have come up recently in some districts in Connecticut, including in Southington where school leaders have defended a teacher who used a vocab sheet featuring inclusive terms.

Meanwhile politicians, including candidate Stefanowski, have singled out transgender youth, saying they should not be allowed to compete in certain high school sports.

Hayes said that she is still learning about transgender issues but that she was motivated to speak out on the issue when former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said she would withhold federal funds from school districts in Connecticut that allowed transgender athletes to play.

“While I don’t understand everything about transitioning and biology, I understand discrimination,” Hayes said. “It is against federal law to discriminate based on sexual orientation.”

“Demonizing children is dangerous,” Hayes said. “Adults targeting children is just wrong and should not happen.”

This story contains information from the Associated Press.

Watch the full interview on Connecticut Public Radio's Where We Live.

Lucy leads Connecticut Public's strategies to deeply connect and build collaborations with community-focused organizations across the state.
Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.
Katie is a producer for Connecticut Public Radio's news-talk show 'Where We Live.' She has previously worked for CNN and News 8-WTNH.

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