Does the Cheshire Democrat have the campaign legs to make a run for her party’s nomination in the the 5th District?
Right now, the odds look very, very long for the former state representative and town council member who has been running hard in the 41 towns that make up the district.
Chris Donovan, the House Speaker, is the hands-down favorite of the Democratic wing of the Democratic party. He won a resounding victory at the Democrats’ nominating convention for the 5th District in Waterbury Monday night. Donovan — with legions of traditional, liberal Democrats in his corner – will be almost imposssible to knock off in the Aug. 14 party primary. He showed impressive muscle among Democratic delegates from the district’s larger cities, including Meriden and New Britain.
Which is why the big question is Esty and whether she can muster enough center and independent-minded Democrats to challenge Donovan. She must show she’s the one who can hold on to a Congressional seat that may be more independent and Republican than it is Democratic.
Donovan smothered Esty and Democrat Dan Roberti Monday evening, raking in 216 of the available 336 delegate votes. Esty collected 66, about 19 percent. Dan Roberti won 54, giving him 16 percent. It takes 15 percent to force a primary.
“I have demonstrated the ability to win independents,” Esty told me during a break from working the crowd Monday evening, reminding me that more than 4 in 10 voters in the 5th District are unaffiliated. “I know I can reach independent voters.”
Esty’s chances also hang on Dan Roberti, the first-time candidate from Kent, who also vows to stay in the race, despite his poor showing Monday evening. Roberti is well-financed and energetic, but not as strong a campaigner as Esty. If he remains the race, Esty probably goes nowhere.
Meanwhile, Democrats have another questions they must ask themselves. If Chris Murphy cruises to the nomination for U.S. Senate, does the party want to reject a moderate female such as Esty in the 5th? The Democrats — including Donovan Monday night — have made much of the “Republican war on women.” If so, why not nominate a Democratic woman in the 5th district?
Esty has no shortage of wealthy backers. She has led all candidates in fundraising. She has about $800,000 in cash on hand as the candidates head into three months of campaigning before the August primary.
Donovan looks more than solid, for now. The campaign, however, has barely begun.
Esty and her staff watch the convention from the back of the room