It will be an open race in November for what has historically been a swing congressional district in Connecticut. Representative Elizabeth Esty announced yesterday that she will serve out the remainder of her third term, but not seek reelection in the 5th district amid questions about her handling of a sexual harassment case in her office.
There had been growing calls for the Democrat to resign because of her handling of a case involving her former chief of staff. She has again apologized to a female former member of her staff who said she was punched in the back and received death threats in 2016. Esty says that she "should have done better."
Esty says she'll work to improve workplace protections during her final months in office.
The Democratic state Senate's majority leader, Bob Duff, was among those to urge Esty to step down. He said several points led him to call for Esty's resignation, including her reluctance to speak out publicly about the situation and using taxpayer money to pay her former chief of staff about $5,000 in severance. Staffers said Esty repaid the federal government last week with her personal funds.
Senator Chris Murphy said in a statement that Esty is a friend and a colleague, who has fought hard on behalf of the people she represents for the past six years. The pair have spoken at length over the past few days, and he supports her decision to not seek re-election. Murphy said no one should ever be harassed, assaulted or intimidated at work, and that Esty knows she handled the dismissal of her former Chief of Staff badly.
Senator Richard Blumenthal called Esty's decision the right one. He added that Esty has done much good and fought relentlessly for highly significant causes like gun safety. Blumenthal continued in his written statement by saying that Esty made profound mistakes, as she has acknowledged, and that harassment and assault in any workplace are unacceptable.
Governor Dannel Malloy said Esty’s decision not to run for another term is the right one. He praised her work on behalf of her constituents on gun safety, economic development, and more. Malloy said he encouraged full transparency with the press and public, and also urged her to do what is in best interest of her constituents and her family. He continued by saying that too many facts about how this incident was handled fall short of appropriate standards for responsible and responsive leadership.
Connecticut Democratic Party Chair Nick Balletto released the following statement:
“Over the last few days, I have been in touch with Congresswoman Esty, our party leaders, and the activists that are on the front line fighting for issues that we all care about. As a result of these discussions, I believe this was ultimately the best decision for her and for her constituents. Make no mistake, this was not about politics for the Congresswoman or for the leaders of our party, this was about the real issues that women face in our workplace and across our communities. That is why all of our Democratic leaders believe in listening to our constituents, advocates, and those that have been affected. It is why we cannot lose focus and must continue the conversation about workplace harassment and the institutions that all too often fail to protect the victim. I have no doubt that as Congresswoman Esty completes her term, she will use these experiences to fight for workplace protections and continue her work on women’s issues, of which she has been a leading advocate for the entirely of her career."