Last week, the Washington Post reported that Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Esty (CT-05) had retained a chief of staff who had been accused of sexual harassment and assault for three months after she first learned of the allegations in 2016. Today, under heavy pressure from colleagues and a Friday Hartford Courant editorial calling on her to resign, Esty announced that she would not seek a fourth term in her northwestern Connecticut district 2018.
The 5th CD is the most competitive district in Connecticut. Its Cook PVI score is D+2, making it less Democratic than all but two other New England districts. In 2016, it voted for Hillary Clinton 50 percent to 46 percent, down from President Obama's eight-point margin in 2012. And the last time the seat came open in 2012, Esty won a highly competitive race against moderate GOP state Sen. Andrew Roraback 51 percent to 49 percent.
In light of her self-inflicted scandal, Esty's exit is probably good news for Democrats' chances of holding the seat. Connecticut's filing deadline (June 8) and primary (August 14) are relatively late, so both parties more than two months to plot their course. On the GOP side, former Meriden Mayor Manny Santos and IT worker Craig DiAngelo are already in, but the open seat should draw a much higher caliber Republican into the contest.
There are deep benches of state legislators and local officeholders on both sides, and it will take at least several weeks for the fields to sort themselves out. But it's helpful for Democrats that 2018 is shaping up to be a bad year for the GOP nationally and that Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, who used to represent the 5th CD, will be topping their ticket. For now, this race moves from Solid Democratic to the Likely Democratic column.