WATERBURY, CT (WFSB) -- One of the most contentious election battles is the race for Congress in the 5th District.

As sparks were flying in a recent debate between incumbent Jahana Hayes and Republican challenger David Sullivan, some predict this will be a tight race.

During the debate, the candidates were asked if they ever differ from their party.

“One of the luxuries of being an independent, is I don’t have a party dictating party positions,” said Bruce Walczak, independent candidate for the 5th congressional district.

However, responses from Hayes and Sullivan were a bit more heated.

“Her first vote is for Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, since that time, 100 percent of the time, she has voted with her party leadership,” Sullivan said, referring to Hayes.

“Instead of giving percentages, give a specific bill and I will defend it,” Hayes answered. “The fact that he can’t talk specifically about a vote, and is looking at percentages, the Democratic priorities that we put forth are also the priorities of people in this district, like healthcare and climate change.”

Hayes says she pressed Speaker Pelosi for more COVID testing for members of Congress and their staffers. Hayes is still recovering from COVID.

The 5th District covers much of the northwestern part of the state, and is very diverse.

It includes democratic strongholds like Waterbury, New Britain and Meriden, but the surrounding areas are more conservative and rural.

Before being elected to her first term, Hayes was a high school history teacher and former National Teacher of the Year.

Sullivan is a former federal prosecutor.

The economy is a big focus for him, as he favors tax policies that support businesses and wants to work on getting out of state businesses to Connecticut.

“We are very encouraged by what we are seeing in this district and we believe the incumbent doesn’t share the values generally of the people of this district,” Sullivan said.

Both Hayes and Sullivan are looking for unaffiliated voters who could make or break this race.

Bruce Walczak, a real estate consultant, feels we should work together to fix the economy, healthcare and social security.

He is critical of Hayes for what he calls her partisanship, and Sullivan for what he views as shortcomings of the Republican party.

“I believe our Congress is dysfunctional. The party rules and the dug in party positions have rendered Congress ineffective,” Walczak said.

When it comes to the pandemic, Hayes says the federal government should provide guidance and more resources to help schools reopen.

Sullivan says the government’s role is limited and is a poor use of taxpayer resources.

Copyright 2020 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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