WASHINGTON — A fourth Republican candidate has entered the 2020 race to challenge U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5.
A businessman and veteran, Ryan Meehan, 37, filed paperwork to make his candidacy official on Monday.
His announcement comes six months after other Republicans launched campaigns against Hayes, a factor that could impact Meehan’s fundraising, name recognition and support ahead of a possible four-way primary.
Meehan recently moved to Litchfield from Greenwich with the goal of representing the district where he grew up in Congress.
“When I decided to go to West Point after Sept. 11, before I made that decision, I had a sense of feeling if not me then who? So I raised my hand and I said ‘I’m going to step forward and I’m going to serve my country,’” said Meehan in an interview. “I’m at a place in my life now where I am able to do that again.”
He has taken a leave of absence from his role as director of Operations for Unison Energy, a mid-size sustainable energy distribution firm, to run for Congress.
Meehan completed two tours in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2012, achieving the rank of captain. He commanded two bases and lead troops in combat, he said.
When he left Congress, he completed a dual degree program for his masters in Business Administration and a masters in international relations at the University of Pennsylvania. He focused his studies on business and Latin America and speaks fluent Portuguese and some Spanish and Italian, he said. He then worked at J.P. Morgan Chase trading oil and gas.
Meehan grew up in Bethlehem and attended the University of Connecticut, before transfering to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, following the Sept. 11 attacks. He has never previously held or campaigned for elected office.
“I'm going to win by being the most qualified candidate for the position,” said Meehan. “I will show over the course of the next several months that I'm the only candidate that can beat the incumbent and unify the district by securing votes across party-lines in the general election.”
If elected, Meehan would make economic and military policy his top priorities. He described himself as a fiscal conservative who backs deficit spending only to promote economic growth and endorsed the administration’s economic agenda.
He supported President Trump’s strong stance against Iran with a recent airstrike that killed the country’s top general, he said.
“Appeasement has not worked. They’ve become increasingly belligerent in the region,” he said. “At some point, we need to take a stand and we certainly took a stand by getting this leader off the battlefield. There comes a point where we need to understand what the potential repercussions of our actions are, which I trust the administration and our military leaders to have already considered.”
On guns, Meehan said he backs expanding background checks for firearm purchases and red flag laws, but is wary abou banning individual weapon types.
Meehan supports Trump’s re-election and called impeachment “an incredible distraction.”
“We have an election coming up. An abundance of information has gotten out to the public,” he said. “It’s now time for Congress to move foward and the American people will make their decision at the polls.”
David Xavier Sullivan, a former assistant U.S. attorney from New Fairfield, Ruben Rodriguez, a meter technician for the City of New Britain, and Robert Hyde, a public relations representative, have all declared their candidacy to the Federal Election Commission.
Sullivan leads the race in fundraising with about $60,000 raised at the end of September, according to the most recent data available.
Hyde faced calls to drop out of the race from state Republican leaders after posting making a vulgar comment about a presidential candidate on Twitter. He confirmed Monday that his campaign is continuing.
J.R. Romano, chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party, said he is happy many Republicans have decided to make the sacrifice of running for office in the 5th District.
“I think there are a lot of Republicans who recognize that Jahana Hayes is part of the most extreme wing of the Democratic party in Congress,” Romano said. “I think that there are many people in the district who feel that the direction that this extreme wing wants to go in is not the right direction.”
Hayes is a first-term Congresswoman and former National Teacher of the Year who has made education and agriculture her signature issues on the hill.
Hayes said her voting record was “anything but extreme.”
“The most disappointing thing about the chairman’s statement is that it is based on the premise that all Democrats are a monolith and lack the capacity for independent thought,” Hayes said Monday. “If they were willing to look beyond the surface, they would see a wide variety of leaders in the Democratic Caucus, each with their own ideas and objectives for improving the lives of their constituents.”
She added that she was eager to debate the Republican nominee after the primary.