|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Connecticut's 5th district
January 3, 2019
March 8, 1973
Waterbury, Connecticut, U.S.
|Education||Naugatuck Valley Community College|
Southern Connecticut State University (BA)
University of Saint Joseph (MA)
University of Bridgeport (SYC)
|Occupation||School teacher, politician|
Jahana Flemming Hayes (born March 8, 1973) is an American educator and politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Connecticut's 5th congressional district since 2019. The district comprises much of northwestern Connecticut, including New Britain, Danbury and Waterbury. A member of the Democratic Party, Hayes is the first African-American woman and African-American Democrat to represent Connecticut in Congress. She was recognized as the National Teacher of the Year in 2016.
Hayes was born on March 8, 1973, in Waterbury, Connecticut, and grew up in public housing projects in that city. She earned an associate degree at Naugatuck Valley Community College and a bachelor's degree at Southern Connecticut State University. In 2012, Hayes earned a master's degree in curriculum and instruction at the University of Saint Joseph. In 2014, she earned her Sixth-Year Certificate from the University of Bridgeport School of Education.
Hayes's first job was at the Southbury Training School in Connecticut. She went on to teach government and history at John F. Kennedy High School in Waterbury. She also chaired the Kennedy SOAR Review Board, a "school within a school" that provided advanced instruction for gifted students, and was a co-adviser of HOPE, a student-service club at Kennedy. In 2015, she was John F. Kennedy Teacher of the Year and then the Waterbury School District Educator of the Year. In 2016 she was named Connecticut's Teacher of the Year.
This award won Hayes widespread media attention. "I really think that we need to change the narrative, change the dialogue about what teaching is as a profession," Hayes told The Washington Post. "We've spent a lot of time in the last few years talking about the things that are not working. We really need to shift our attention to all the things that are working." Appearing on Ellen DeGeneres's talk show, Hayes said she taught her students "kindness" and "community service." After receiving the award, she addressed the annual meeting of the National Education Association. "I am so grateful to be a member of the NEA," she said, praising it for preventing the "altruistic character trait that all teachers possess" from being exploited.
In 2018, Hayes ran for the Democratic nomination for Connecticut's 5th congressional district. Her difficult upbringing was a cornerstone of her campaign. "I know what it's like to go to bed to gunshots outside," she told an audience at a candidate forum. "I know what it's like to wake up in the morning to a dead body in the hallway."
Hayes won the primary on August 14, beating Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman, who was endorsed by the Connecticut Democratic Party, 62% to 38%. In the November general election, she faced Republican Manny Santos, a former mayor of Meriden.
On November 6, Hayes declared victory, becoming the first black Democratic House member from Connecticut. She and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts's 7th congressional district are the first women of color to be elected to Congress from New England.
Hayes supports public education and teachers' unions, and has credited her "union brothers and sisters" with playing a role in her success. In the 2018 election, she was endorsed by the Connecticut Education Association. Her candidacy was also supported by the Connecticut Working Families Party (CTWFP), with CTWFP state director Lindsay Farrell saying that her primary victory "demonstrates the value in electing and mobilizing teachers who will fight for public education, stand up to [Education Secretary] Betsy DeVos, and advocate the importance of collective bargaining." Hayes voted to condemn the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement as antisemitic.
On September 24, 2019, Hayes announced that she supported formal impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. On December 18, 2019, she voted to impeach Trump on both articles of impeachment.