Connecticut state House Speaker Chris Donovan (D) on Wednesday will formally enter an already crowded race for the state’s 5th congressional district.
Though Donovan has been trumpeting bread-and-butter progressive issues — labor causes, universal healthcare and environmental protection — he’s running in a district with a strong independent streak that Republicans have been eyeing for a possible pickup. Donovan is closely associated with public employee unions, whose battles with state governments over benefits and bargaining rights have muddied the political waters across the country this cycle. But Donovan said he isn’t worried about running too far to the left.
“I think [the key is] campaigning on popular issues,” Donovan told The Hill. “Polls have shown Republicans, independents and Democrats support good jobs and good healthcare, time off for families and education, Social Security and Medicare.”
As a state lawmaker for almost two decades who has presided over the state House since 2009, Donovan carries strong name recognition and has shown the ability to pull in large sums of money. In July, his campaign announced he had raised more than $230,000 in the second quarter of 2011, 90 percent of it within Connecticut and much of it from small-figure donors.
Donovan’s name started floating soon after Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) announced he would vacate the seat to try for retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-Conn.) seat. Donovan’s bid makes him one of at least seven candidates vying for Murphy’s seat. In the Democratic primary, Donovan will face Elizabeth Esty and Dan Roberti. On the GOP side, Lisa Wilson-Foley, Mark Greenberg, Justin Bernier and Mike Clark have all indicated they will seek the nomination.
Donovan, who was first elected to the state House in 1992, also teaches political science at the University of Hartford and is the fifth of eight children.
“Certainly I am a well-established legislator who has been fighting for families for a number of years,” Donovan said.
But Republicans wasted no time in painting him as an establishment figured tied to Democrats with dwindling approval ratings.
“Career politician Chris Donovan is out looking for a promotion, even though he ignored Connecticut voters and supported the largest tax increase in the state’s history," said Tory Mazzola, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “If he thinks that’s the way to create jobs, he’ll fit right in with Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama in Washington, D.C.”
Donovan will kick off his campaign with a week of events at parks, a library and his new headquarters in Meriden, Conn. If he makes it to Washington, he won’t have to look far for someone to show him around: His daughter, Sarah, studies at The George Washington University.