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Esty Says She Won't Resign, But Analyst Says Scandal Could Make Her Seat Vulnerable

Chion Wolf
Rep. Elizabeth Esty (file photo).

Democratic Representative Elizabeth Esty has so far resisted calls for her resignation from Connecticut’s 5th District congressional seat.

Several prominent Democrats in the state have called on her to step aside over her handling of an abuse scandal in 2016 involving her then-chief of staff. The news was first reported late last week.

“People knew about this behavior,” said Democratic state Senator Mae Flexer. “The moment they found out the congresswoman knew, they expected some sort of relief. And instead of relief, they watched this man continue to lead her office for three months, even attending the Democratic National Convention with her.”

But poll watchers say if she does stand for re-election in November, she may run into problems in what’s known as Connecticut’s most competitive district.

The largest group of voters in the district - almost 45 percent - are unaffiliated, which makes it hard to predict.

CNN political editor and analyst Harry Enten told Connecticut Public Radio’s The Colin McEnroe Show that the expected wave of Democratic voters this November may not show up for Esty.

“If you look throughout the country, what you see are Democrats doing significantly better that you might expect in a neutral environment,” he said. “We see that in the special elections, we also see it on the generic congressional ballot, you see it with Trump’s low approval rating. We would not expect it to be competitive. But the fact that she has had this scandal, and the state and the district she has, I think opens it up.”

Enten said an analysis of recent congressional races shows candidates involved in scandal taking a hit of more than six percent to their expected share of the vote.

Waterbury is the largest city that Esty represents and residents had mixed reactions.

“She’s got to go man, she got to go,” said Gavin Felix, who added that she set a “bad example.”

But not everyone has been so quick to criticize her.

“I don’t think she should resign because there’s a lot of unanswered questions first of all,” said Rob Petro, also a resident of Waterbury. “I always say get all the facts first before you scrutinize someone and kick them while they’re down.”

Members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation have expressed concern of Esty’s handling of the situation, but have so far stopped short of calling for her to step down.

Harriet Jones, Frankie Graziano, and Ray Hardman contributed to this report.

Tucker Ives is WNPR's morning news producer.

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