Former national teacher of the year Jahana Hayes has been declared the winner of her congressional race in Connecticut, paving the way for her to become the Constitution State’s first Black woman ever elected to Congress.
“People have said to me: ‘She doesn’t have what it takes,’” Hayes, 45, said in declaring victory. “Not only am I built for this, I’m Brass City built for this.”
She continued: “You … believe that we have to protect the future that we promised for our kids. You also believe that we have an obligation to be of service to someone else, … that true leaders lead from the front and lead by example, and reject all of this hate and intolerance and this indescribable fear that does not define who we are.”
With the election, Hayes added to a number of historic results for a large group of African-American candidates running in the midterm elections across the country.
The former national teacher of the year was still teaching full-time in the months leading up to Election Day. What will soon be her former profession has really helped inform the way she approaches politics, she told the Hartford Courant recently.
“When you’re a teacher, you don’t pick and choose who you advocate for. You don’t choose who comes to your class. You don’t ask kids, ‘Is your mom a Republican or a Democrat,’ because that’s how I’m gonna decide how hard I’m gonna work for you,” Hayes said. “They come to you and you have a responsibility to leave them better than when they came. I think that’s what government should be doing.”
Not unlike other Black women running for key state-wide elected seats, Hayes encountered her fair share of resistance from Democratic Party insiders who initially favored other candidates. Because of some creative maneuvering by the Connecticut state Democrats, Hayes didn’t get the party’s nomination. Still, she won the primary in August and forced Democrats to support her as the party’s nominee.
That phenomenon was similar to those we saw for other Black women who were still able to win their respective primaries with little or no help from Democrats.
Hayes explained why she was running for Congress when she declared in July. “Who will speak for them?” Hayes recalled asking herself one day while looking at her students.
Thanks to the voters of Connecticut, that question has been answered, and then some.