NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty triumphed in Connecticut's closely watched 5th Congressional District race on Tuesday, rounding out a Democratic sweep of congressional races in the state.
Esty's opponent, veteran Republican state Sen. Andrew Roraback, conceded defeat in a race that attracted significant outside spending. Her victory came about a week after former President Bill Clinton headlined a Democratic rally in Waterbury, urging voters to support Esty and U.S. Senate candidate Chris Murphy. Murphy, who defeated pro wrestling magnate Linda McMahon in his senate race, had held the 5th District seat since 2007.
"I'm so honored that we could be part of that effort here in the fighting 5th district, getting our job done for the president," Esty said. "So let's face it folks, we were up against the odds in this one. In the last two-and-a-half weeks, count them three — not one, not two, but three out-of-state-super PACs — $2.5 million in our little part of the earth here in northwest Connecticut. But we proved in the Senate, we proved in the House, cannot be bought."
U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro, John Larson, Jim Himes and Joe Courtney also won their races.
Esty defeated Chris Donovan, the state's speaker of the House, in a Democratic primary to secure a spot in the general election. Donovan, the party's endorsed candidate, had become ensnared in a campaign financing scandal.
Throughout the campaign, Esty and national Democrats tried to portray Roraback as being aligned with conservative Republicans, despite Roraback's insistence that he is a moderate.
"I have no regrets, none, this has been the most amazing experience of my lifetime," Roraback said. "You've given me the opportunity to serve you for 18 years and service comes in many forms. I'm not going to stop trying to serve the people who make this corner of Connecticut such a special place."
The 5th district seat, in a largely bipartisan area of northwestern Connecticut, was one of only two U.S. House seats in New England where an incumbent was not running for re-election.
Among the outside spending, the Government Integrity Fund spent $1.1 million on ads attacking Esty, calling her a tax-and-spend politician, while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent about $1.4 million to support Esty and attack Roraback.
Roraback said he favored extending the Bush-era tax cuts for a year for everyone while the tax code is reformed. He said raising taxes would hurt small businesses.
Esty said she wanted to extend the cuts for the middle class. She said Republicans want lower taxes for the wealthy but offer no specifics on spending.
Roraback called himself a fiscally prudent, socially moderate independent lawmaker, saying he would not support efforts to privatize Medicare because health care costs would exceed vouchers. But Esty repeatedly tried to tie him to national Republicans, including vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, saying he would vote to put them in leadership positions to enact their agenda.
Roraback criticized the health care law signed by President Barack Obama, saying it will cost $1 trillion over the next decade and leave 30 million people with no health care coverage. Esty expressed support for the law, saying it would allow children to remain on their parents' health insurance until age 26 and prevents insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Esty, an attorney, served one term in the Connecticut House, from 2009 to 2011. Esty and her husband, Dan, a Yale University professor and the commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection under Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, have three children and live in Cheshire.
Associated Press writer Susan Haigh contributed to this report.