In 2018, as a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson shared her perspective at a forum on issues that moved her deeply such as the opioid and drug crisis as well as the state budget picture.
In a sea of more than one dozen Republican men running for governor, one GOP gubernatorial candidate offered unsolicited advice after the forum.
“You know, you’d do a lot better if you smile more,” he advised her. “I looked at him and I said, ‘Would you say that to a man?’ These are serious issues we’re talking about,” Stevenson recalled recently. “Why would I smile about the state budget crisis?”/a>
Proving she had a sense of humor under appropriate terms, Stevenson’s rejoinder spawned a yellow smiley face button as a campaign logo.
Stevenson, who recently stepped down after a decade as chief executive of the town of Darien, embraces an independent, libertarian streak that has served her well in politics while trying to puncture through the long-held bias against female candidates.
She’s now courting another public office, Connecticut’s 4th Congressional District, where independent viewpoints and working a diverse constituency were the hallmark of moderate Republicans Lowell Weicker, Stuart McKinney and Christopher Shays until Democrat Jim Himes broke the 40-year, GOP representation streak during Barack Obama’s tsunami in 2008 that inspired young and black voters to the polls including a massive turnout in Bridgeport.
The well-financed Himes has run strong in his reelections, but for the first time faces a woman who can also appeal to independent-minded voters and white suburban females anathema to Donald Trump’s presidency that elected Democrats to the Connecticut legislature in traditional Republican areas.
The congressional district runs from Bridgeport to Greenwich along the shore heading inland featuring upscale suburbia up to Ridgefield. It requires dexterity to juggle rich and poor, city race and suburban pace, Greenwich socialites and struggling inner-city neighborhoods.
Stevenson sits on the board of Bridgeport-based LifeBridge Community Services, the behavioral health nonprofit focused on youth development in Connecticut’s largest city.
Why is she running?
“Elections are about embracing the status quo or using your voice to create positive change,” she says. “I am ready to connect, communicate and find better solutions for southwestern Connecticut. I am running for Congress to bring principled, bridge-building leadership to Washington and to inspire healthier discussions that garner better results for Connecticut.
“As I listen to our community members, I hear concerns over the rising cost of food, gas and healthcare, the deterioration of public safety and mental health as well as the crises in our public schools. People are longing for less government; one that works to protect our safety and freedom.”
The former Standard and Poor’s bond analyst was raised in Pennsylvania. She and husband John, married for 35 years, have five children and two grandchildren.
The world watches with trepidation the Russian invasion of Ukraine and potential to boil over. She says she stands in solidarity with the Ukrainian people.
In this 2022 gubernatorial cycle when urban turnouts don’t measure up to presidential elections Republicans hope they can achieve gains helmed by stronger candidates.
In politics, winning is relative. Can the GOP cut into urban areas to lift up their candidates? That depends, in part, on the messaging of the candidates.