Sue Hatfield could become the first Republican Attorney General of Connecticut since 1959. It will be no easy task – the Connecticut GOP is currently locked out of every statewide office, the entire Congressional delegation, and is the minority in both houses of the General Assembly. And, even though she is the Connecticut GOP’s officially endorsed candidate, she still has a primary fight to win in August.
But if any Republican can break the Democratic stranglehold in Hartford it could just be Sue Hatfield. She is inordinately qualified for the job, a non-stop campaigner, and has the sort of star-quality that most aspiring candidates would trade their right arm for.
Hatfield also has a fantastic candidate backstory. She has done so many different, interesting things in her life it is almost difficult to remember them all.
In high school she was an all-state basketball player, and she spent her summers working as a janitor’s assistant. At college she studied nursing and worked as a Registered Nurse before making a switch to a career in law. After earning two law degrees and a stint in private practice on Wall Street, she became a Connecticut state prosecutor — a position she has held for thirteen years.
At the Connecticut GOP convention in May she received the official endorsement of her party, but she still has a primary challenger — former state representative John Shaban. If she wins the August primary she will face one of three possible Democratic opponents, but not incumbent George Jepsen, who has decided not to run again.
Whatever the results of this race, Sue Hatfield is certainly one to watch. Although she says she has no political aspirations beyond this race, she has the sort of resumé that would make her a strong candidate for virtually any office. Republican leadership is sure to notice.
We thought Sue would make a great subject for our next interview, and were delighted when she agreed to take part.
The News Growl Interview: Sue Hatfield
News Growl: You’ve led an incredibly interesting life. You’ve worked as a nurse, an attorney in private practice, a state prosecutor, and as a teenager you worked summers as a janitor’s assistant. Why run for Connecticut Attorney General?
Sue Hatfield: I have been fortunate to have a strong family behind me, to serve as a prosecutor for 13 years while raising two small boys with a very supportive husband.
I am determined to offer the voters someone with experience and perspective. We must reform Connecticut across the board and keep government focused on making sure every citizen has justice working for them. The voters I have met are eager for change. They are tired of the career politicians and want somebody with real world experience.
NG: You mention change, hundreds of women across the country are seeking office for the first time this year. The perception is they are mostly Democrats. As a Republican, do you see yourself as part of this wider movement or are you inspired to run for different reasons?
SH: I am proud to be a qualified, Republican woman who is committed to winning in November. I am running because I want to have an Attorney General that seeks justice, not one who uses the office for political promotion. Among the candidates running, I am the most qualified attorney for this position.
I was raised by a father who always said that I can be anything I want to be – including president. Throughout my entire life I have been surrounded by women of strength, who were trailblazers in their own right, my mother and her advanced degree and my grandmother who marched with the Suffragettes in Connecticut. I think it’s fair to say, I knew of no limitations for women growing up.
NG: No woman has ever been elected Connecticut Attorney General before. Do you think it is important for women to be represented in government at the highest level, or is it more important for voters just to elect the best candidates?
SH: Hands down, I am the most qualified candidate running for Attorney General from either party. When elected, I would just happen to be the first women elected to this position. I believe that it is important for women to be represented at all levels of government – for the simple fact that a state’s government should reflect its constituency. I am a Republican woman running for Attorney General – who also happens to be the most qualified person for the job.
The overwhelming support from women on both sides of the aisle is humbling and empowering. When young girls and women approach me about my candidacy for Attorney General and share their professional and life goals with me – it hits home for me and I’m genuinely honored to listen to their story. I always tell them what my Dad said to me – you can be anything you want to be — even President. Recently, one young girl who was no more than four years old replied “I will work on becoming President.” As the next Attorney General, I will never miss an opportunity to inspire a child to be all they can be – whether a girl or a boy.
NG: You’ve mentioned a couple times that you consider yourself the most qualified candidate. Everyone else running, whether a Democrat or Republican, has a law degree and experience in private practice. Is it your experience as a prosecutor that sets you apart in your view or something else?
SH: As a prosecutor, I have experience representing the State of Connecticut on a wide-range of complex cases often involving numerous jurisdictions and co-defendants and have handled a vast and diverse caseload involving crimes such as human trafficking, home invasion, kidnapping, racketeering, larceny, securities violations, assault, sexual assault, and cases involving firearms and narcotics. In fact, I was the first prosecutor in Connecticut to receive a conviction for the completed crime of human trafficking under Connecticut state law.
While I was an attorney with the Wall Street law firm of Hawkins, Delafield & Wood, I represented governmental entities, public authorities, and private entities from the perspective of bond and underwriter’s counsel, which included the legal representation of a public authority in connection with a $967,000,000 nuclear power plant sale.
My legal education is also another factor. I am the only candidate who holds an advanced law degree. I received a LL.M. in Taxation from Georgetown University Law Center.
My breadth of legal experience and my advanced legal education makes me uniquely qualified and the most qualified candidate in the race.
NG: Even if you are the most qualified candidate, there are currently no Connecticut Republicans in statewide office or in the Congressional delegation. Do you think voters are ready for a change?
SH: Democrats have broken faith with the voters, but it’s up to Republicans to make our case for why we can be better leaders. I know all our Republicans candidates statewide have the experience and vision to win this fall. But it will take a lot of listening and working.
People often say, that I am “everywhere.” That’s correct, I am in the cities, in the suburbs, and in the rural parts of the state. People are very eager for change. People are responding to me because I am not the typical career politician. I am a lawyer, a nurse, a former janitor’s assistant, an athlete, a wife, and a mom. They can relate to me and I can relate to them.
NG: You may not a career politician, but are politically engaged. You were a delegate at the 2016 Republican convention, and you even served as a staffer for Speaker Newt Gingrich in the 1990s. Just so readers can understand the difference, how would you define being a “career politician?”
SH: In this race, three of the five candidates are current or former members of the Connecticut General Assembly. I’m running for Attorney General because I want to fight for the people of Connecticut, not just secure the next stepping-stone in my political career.
NG: I have to ask, though, what was your time as a Congressional staffer like?
SH: I had a great opportunity to work with Speaker Gingrich after his historic victory in 1994 and it changed the method I viewed every challenge in life. His rule was to take the time to step back and look at problems differently and risk new approaches. I have tried to use those lessons in my personal and professional lives.
NG: Can you give us an example of a time you’ve followed his advice and risked a new approach?
SH: He encouraged me to run for office years ago – And here I am — the endorsed Republican candidate for Attorney General many years later.
NG: Most people would probably only have a vague idea of what the Attorney General actually does. Can you explain in your own words what Attorney General Sue Hatfield would be doing on a day-to-day basis?
SH: In some states the attorney general has criminal jurisdiction, but the Connecticut Attorney General is the chief civil attorney for the state.
Each day I would be evaluating how the office could effectively represent the interests of the people of the state, while at the same time guiding our state policies and regulations to guarantee those rights.
NG: You are a registered nurse and list the opioid crisis as a priority for your time in office. Can you explain what you could do as Attorney General to improve the situation?
SH: Last year, there were around 1,000 opioid deaths in Connecticut that were documented. It is fair to say there were many more since many families privately grieve their loss.
The gravity of this opioid crisis must be addressed and getting information about marketing and use is something that the attorney general can make happen. I am determined to find out why there has been a proliferation of these pain medication drugs and use all the options at my disposal to get those answers.
NG: You also want to fight for Net Neutrality for Connecticut consumers. That’s not a standard Republican position. Can you explain your thinking behind this?
SH: Our economy and our society is evolving at a stunning pace, and Connecticut needs to not be left behind. Digital technologies are now the underpinnings of almost every facet of daily life. Banking, commerce, even first responder services are all now highly reliant on the exchange of information via cyberspace. It’s now, in every way that matters, the public uses the internet as a utility. So there is a public trust involved.
I will be an Attorney General who works to strike the necessary, thoughtful balance of continuing to support innovation while guarding the public trust relative to digital technologies.
NG: You’re grew up and live in Eastern Connecticut. I’ve seen several references in your campaign material to that being the “forgotten part” of the state. Is that a long-running issue?
SH: I was born and raised in a beautiful part of our state where hard work, playing by the rules and being good to your neighbor are how you are measured as a person. I am proud of my small-town values because I think they apply to every part of our state. We all want a better future for our children.
I proudly hail from Eastern Connecticut and I believe the East has been overlooked in a number of ways; we have a united community of voters, supporters, volunteers, and donors. It’s a community that has cultivated people and candidates alike who embody the type of strength, moral fiber, sense of duty and purpose that I believe we need representing the people of Connecticut.
NG: You’ve been criticized by Democrats for being an early and enthusiastic supporter of Donald Trump. More recently you’ve been quizzed about some of his more controversial policies. But the Attorney General’s job seems like one of the less partisan statewide offices, though. How relevant do you think your support for the President should be in this election?
SH: Most of the delegates from the Connecticut delegation, as well as from other states, are people who care about their state and their country and take an active interest in choosing the candidates to lead them.
I was honored to be chosen to represent Connecticut Republicans and vote for President Trump, but I won’t hesitate to challenge the federal government on behalf of Connecticut’s citizens if the situation requires it.
NG: Among the million things you have accomplished, you were an all-state basketball player in high school. In March a supporter in New Haven challenged you to a game of hoops to help introduce you to young people in his area. Have you played the game yet?
SH: I’m a jock and can’t pass up a challenge. We shall see what happens.
NG: It’s clear you haven’t lost your touch on the court. In a video on your Instagram account you made a shot with your back to the net while filming a short political speech (see below). That was incredible. Did you do it in one take?
SH: I get asked that question a lot — next time, I need to do it on Facebook live.
NG: That would be certainly be bold! But I think the takehome here is you are a serious hoops player.
SH: Yes. I tried out for the WNBA Washington Mystics years ago. My career path may have been much different had I made the team.
NG: Wait, you tried out for the WNBA? Seriously, what was that like?
I tried out for the Mystics in the WNBA’s second year. It’s really wonderful that the league has been so successful and I am happy to have had this experience.
What I learned is that it is important to take risks and chances in life and each experience collectively makes who you are today. This is a message and an experience that I can share with young girls who dream of playing college basketball, professional basketball, and even running for office.
NG: One last question. Your husband Nicholas Leary is a retired Connecticut State Trooper, and by all accounts a real hero. During our research for this interview we came across several commendations he received for saving lives. In 2007, for example, he rushed into a burning building and saved the life of a woman who could not get out of bed by herself. Then in 2010 while off duty he drove past an overturned car, called for assistance, and helped flip over the car that was crushing the driver, saving her life. Those are just two of the examples we found. What is it like to be married to a hero?
SH: Nick does not consider himself a hero and he would tell you that he was just doing the job he was hired to do. But I will never forget the morning when he risked his own life to run into that burning building. It was when our son William was only a few weeks old.
As a wife of a law enforcement officer, I have the utmost respect for the thousands of brave men and women who risk their lives each and every day to protect all of us. They put the lives of strangers above their own,day in and day out, and never give it a second thought.
NG: Thank you for taking time out of your busy campaign schedule to talk to us.
SH: It’s been my pleasure!
For more information about Sue Hatfield and her campaign for Attorney General of Connecticut visit hatfield2018.com, like her Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter: @SusanHatfield. And to see her no-look two-pointer, see below: