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Candidate's daughter, a veteran of The Day, won a Pulitzer

My reporting on the race for the 37th House District, Democrat Cate Steel vs. incumbent Republican Holly Cheeseman, took an interesting turn Tuesday, when Steel told me in an interview that her daughter Emily once worked in the newsroom of The Day.

Steel and I were talking about the trials of running a campaign, especially against a two-term incumbent, during a pandemic, when she mentioned her daughter's connection to The Day.

It turns out the candidate has been especially busy during the pandemic, since the outbreak brought home both her son, who returned to his parents' home in East Lyme from a job in China, and Emily, who is on maternity leave from the New York Times and moved up from Brooklyn with her husband and their 6-month-old daughter to weather the public health storm here.

Steel says she is delighted to have them, especially her new granddaughter.

It makes for a busy household, with a challenging election campaign thrown in.

Steel and her husband still manage the daily regimen of a 9-mile morning bike ride on the winding roads of East Lyme.

Indeed, I was endlessly impressed with candidate Steel, who, despite the pandemic and the party's stern warning against door-to-door campaigning, seems to have boundless electioneering energy and ingenuity, hosting conferences on Zoom and a cable television show.

She works with volunteers on campaign phone banks and did manage to do some socially distanced campaigning at the landfill in Salem.

She also strikes me as a wonderful mother. It was her son, helping with the campaign while home, who first reached out and invited me to interview his mom.

It wasn't until after the interview that I learned more about Emily Steel's fine journalism, which I am now proud to know included a learning stop at The Day.

Emily Steel and reporter Michael Schmidt uncovered the sexual misconduct allegations that likely led to cable king Bill O'Reilly's ouster at Fox News, and they shared in a New York Times Pulitzer Prize for public service. Their reporting helped mark the beginning of the Me Too movement.

Emily Steel, who was 34 when she earned journalism's highest honor in 2018, disclosed in an interview on Canadian public television that they turned to the Boston Globe's Spotlight Team and its exposure of sexual misconduct in the Catholic Church for  inspiration on the O'Reilly story.

They even watched the movie "Spotlight," on the Globe's reporting, to mine it for tips.

Another veteran of The Day, Globe columnist Thomas Farragher, was on the Spotlight Team when it won a Pulitzer for its reporting on the Catholic church.

I am always proud of The Day's history of community journalism and all the fine journalists this little paper has sent out in the world.

And now I know that the Pulitzer-winning journalism of one veteran of The Day newsroom helped lead another Day-trained reporter to a Pulitzer.

Honestly, I would vote for Cate Steel even if she hadn't raised a good journalist.

A retired school speech pathologist who most recently worked in Norwich public schools, Steel ticks off topics like concern for the environment, mental health, education and racial equality as issues she looks forward to addressing in Hartford.

A member of the East Lyme Board of Education, she seems genuinely enthused about the idea of pursuing long-held beliefs in public service and social justice. She looks forward to working with constituents.

As a state representative, she says, she won't turn up at the VFW post for a photo op. She is more likely to sit and listen to people's stories and head to the kitchen to help with the dishes.

She grew up in Nebraska, one of nine children brought up by a mother, a high school speech and drama teacher, who was widowed at the age of 37. Two of her brothers did missionary work in South America.

Her husband's work for Pfizer brought the family to Connecticut 24 years ago.

Evidently Steel, like her own hardworking mother, instilled in her daughter a work ethic, curiosity, determination and public spiritedness, just some of the qualities you need to snatch a Pulitzer.

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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