Rating Update: Race for Esty’s Seat Remains Solid Democratic for Now

Connecticut Democrat’s exit may improve party’s chances of holding district

Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., has announced she won’t run for re-election amid reports she recommended her former chief of staff for a job after he was accused of harassing a subordinate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo.)

Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Esty announced Monday she won’t run for re-election following reports that she waited three months before dismissing her chief of staff, who was accused of physically and verbally harassing another staffer, and then recommended him for a job 

“Too many women have been harmed by harassment in the workplace,” Esty said in a statement. “In the terrible situation in my office, I could have and should have done better. To the survivor, I want to express my strongest apology for letting you down.”

Her decision not to run for re-election leaves an open seat in Connecticut’s 5th District, in the northwest corner of the state. The district’s population of non-Hispanic white residents (70 percent) is higher than the national average (61 percent), along with its population of residents with a college degree (40 percent, 9 points greater than the national average).

Watch: Former Congresswomen Reflect on Sexual Harassment Issues

Esty’s seat was already on the DCCC’s list of vulnerable incumbents, probably more because Hillary Clinton carried the district narrowly, 50 percent to 46 percent, over Donald Trump. Esty, meanwhile, won re-election by 16 points that year. Republicans came close in 2012, the last time the seat was open, when Democratic Rep. Christopher S. Murphy ran for the Senate: Esty defeated moderate Republican Andrew Roraback by 3 points.

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In a midterm election with a Democrat in the White House, this would probably be a good Republican takeover opportunity. But Republicans haven’t won a race in the area in over a dozen years, and there is little indication they can pull this off in an election cycle trending against the president and the GOP.

Esty’s exit might actually improve Democratic chances of holding the seat.

We’re maintaining our Inside Elections rating of the 5th District race as Solid Democratic for now and waiting to see how the fields to replace Esty shake out (the filing deadline is June 8) and how the race develops.

— Leah Askarinam contributed to this report.

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