On July 15, JT Lewis, brother of Sandy Hook victim Jesse Lewis, announced a run for state Senate in Connecticut. The 19-year-old Lewis will be challenging incumbent Tony Hwang in the Republican primary.
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to speak with JT about his intentions, and about what he believes he will bring to the race for state Senator.
DW: When and why did you decide to run?
LEWIS: I’m running in Connecticut because our leadership has, in large part, failed us. As evidence, our state Senator never returned our phone call after a shooting that left 26 people dead in our state. We called him, my mom called him with her foundation, the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement. She was ready to launch it, thinking a state like Connecticut, which just had a mass shooting, would want a mental health program like that to show the rest of the country what to do after a shooting. The state Senator never returned our phone calls.
DW: Can you talk about your opponent? Is it that specific state Senator against whom you’re running?
LEWIS: Yeah, I’m running against Tony Hwang. He’s a Republican and I’m launching a primary challenge against him. He’s been here for three terms and was a state representative before that, since 2009. Actually, interestingly enough, I don’t want this whole campaign to be about a fight between us – that’s not what this is about. It’s about fresh leadership in Connecticut, which I think is in serious trouble right now.
Right before the 2018 election, I saw one of his posts on Facebook, it was sponsored, it was titled, “Commitment to the Community,” which is a slogan. I left a comment that said, “How do you call yourself committed to the community when you never returned my mom’s phone call after a shooting where she lost her son?” He quickly deleted the post and said that he had “dropped the ball,” he was “very sorry,” blah blah blah. Later, I gave him my mom’s contact information, and they were in touch. This is years later, years after we originally called him.
After he won reelection in 2018, we never heard from him again. So, that’s an example of the poor leadership – and it’s not just him. It’s really all of our leaders here who are seriously lacking.
DW: If you win the primary, who is your Democratic opponent?
LEWIS: We don’t have one yet. It’s about a year before the primary, which is August 2020. So I don’t know that yet, but we’ve just got to beat Tony first.
DW: If you had to whittle everything down, what is your primary political issue going to be?
LEWIS: Right, we worked on a national level with the president on safety reform, releasing a federal safety report with the president, that’s been a big issue – but as far as Connecticut, and that’s something I’ll continue to push here because our schools are not safe yet – but as far as Connecticut goes, the big issue here is our economic problems. Our governor wants to implement tolls and taxes, an insane amount of tolls and taxes, so we’re fighting against that, but we’re also fighting to lower taxes on businesses so we can bring some of them back that are leaving our state.
Our state has a huge problem right now with businesses leaving, so that’s a huge message. I’m 19 years old, so people don’t think I can handle that, but it’s something I have a grasp on, and I’m ready to fight for it.
DW: What kind of Republican are you? Are your more moderate or more conservative?
LEWIS: I’m running as a Republican, so I support the president because he’s been very responsive to our families for school safety and included our ideas amongst the top. As far as that goes, I’m running on a message of unity here. I have met both President Trump and President Obama, and we shared our stories with them. They both helped us to different extents – not as much by Obama. I’m running as a Republican, and I will be fighting for conservative values and beliefs. I’m 19 years old, so it’s a new wave of Republican leadership.
DW: Can you expand a little bit on your brand of politician?
LEWIS: It will be a very unifying message. One of the things I’m talking about is how my brother Jesse, the one who was killed in the shooting, actually saved nine of his classmates. It’s a message I’ve been trying to spread, and a message we shared with President Obama and President Trump, and it made both of them emotional. President Obama cried and president Trump actually brought us back to the Oval Office and had a private moment with us once we shared that story with him. It’s a very powerful message.
As far as fighting for school safety or fighting for gun control, we all want the same thing. That message is able to bring people to the table and really hash out these ideas and get things done.
DW: Do you think there is a unifying point between people who are strong advocates of further gun restrictions and those who aren’t?
LEWIS: Well, the unifying point would be kids being safe in school and people being safe in their communities. We’re just coming at it from a different angle. You know, talking with people personally, it isn’t this fight that you see in Washington, and it doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you’re on. We all want the same thing; we don’t want to fight about it; we just want to get it done. So, as a state Senator, I’ll be able to bring people who are very important to the table and have this conversation to figure out what is supported by the majority of Americans. We’ll figure it out and we’ll use that message to bring people to the table. That’s something that really has never been tried before.
DW: What do you expect will be the most difficult part, if you win the election, of being in a position of power like that?
LEWIS: I don’t think there is going to be a very difficult part. Honestly, for the past year and half – and I’m not naive to the difficulties of the job – but for the past year and a half, I have been fighting on a national level with national legislators. We’ve done different things like the Stop School Violence Act and Fix NICS, releasing the federal school safety report with the president. So, I’ve worked with legislators on a national level, and I think I can bring that experience back to my home state of Connecticut and fix my home state.
DW: What do you expect from this race going forward? How do you think it will play out?
LEWIS: Obviously, I’m going to win with a message like this, and a message of unity here in a very divided state that wants to be unified. I think that message plays really well and it’s something I truly believe in.
As far as the race between me and Tony goes, it’s going to be a bit of a dog fight. I saw him recently at a ribbon cutting ceremony for a project that he had nothing to do with. I was just in the crowd supporting a family member and he stared me down the entire ceremony with these evil eyes. If that told me anything about how this race is going to go, it’s that it’s going to be a bit of a dog fight, but I’m absolutely ready for that. I’m doing it for the right reason, to honor my brother, and my opponent is not going to get in the way of that.
DW: Do you have any ambitions beyond this race?
LEWIS: My focus is solely on this race, my time as a state Senator, and how I can better my community and state now.
DW: Is there anything you want to say to Daily Wire readers?
LEWIS: My message to readers would be that if you feel your state’s (or country’s) leadership is lacking, challenge the status quo. Lazy politicians in Connecticut are waking up to the realization that if a 19-year-old can mount a challenge against a 10-year legislator, they are all vulnerable.