NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) – The Connecticut doctor whose wife and two daughters were killed in a 2007 home invasion that horrified the country has been approached about running for public office and is thinking about entering politics, his sister said.
Dr. William Petit, the only survivor of the hostage ordeal in the suburban community of Cheshire, has had talks recently with Republican Party officials, his sister Johanna Chapman told The Associated Press this week. Petit, who has remarried since the invasion, did not return a telephone message left at his house.
“He’s been recruited,” Chapman said. “But I think it’s a large decision and he and his wife Christine are going to have to mull it over and decide whether it’s something that they want to do based on the fact that they’re expecting a new baby in the beginning of December.”
Petit has had a few phone conversations in recent months with Republicans about running in the 5th Congressional District, according to a Republican official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential conversations with a potential candidate. The official characterized the talks as exploratory and said Petit was considering a possible run.
Petit campaigned against the repeal of Connecticut’s death penalty after his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and their daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, were killed. The family was held hostage for hours by two paroled burglars and their home set on fire. Petit was beaten, tied up and taken to the basement, but he managed to escape and crawl to a neighbor’s house for help.
Steven Hayes, 50, and Joshua Komisarjevsky, 33, have been sentenced to death for the killings.
The crime, which unsettled notions of suburban safety in Connecticut and beyond, began after Komisarjevsky spotted Hawke-Petit and Michaela at a supermarket and followed them to their home. Hawke-Petit was taken to a bank to withdraw money, then was raped and strangled back at the house. Her daughters were tied to their beds and died of smoke inhalation after the house was doused in gasoline and set on fire.
Petit has been active on Twitter, posting about political issues including the new federal health care law and the partial government shutdown.
“He’s pretty passionate about the issues and he’s a pretty bright guy, and I think he would be great in office,” Chapman said. “I’m just not sure the timing is right. That’s basically what he said. Some days it seems like a great idea and other days it seems like the worst idea.”
Petit’s name is widely recognized across Connecticut as a result of publicity surrounding the home invasion, and the 5th Congressional District is one of the areas where Republicans have their best chance to break Democrats’ lock on the state’s congressional delegation.
Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said he wasn’t surprised that Petit would consider running for office, noting his heavy involvement in the death penalty debate.
“I think when you see how laws are passed or not passed that sometimes you get a bug in you and you want to continue trying to change society in a way that you feel would help your fellow citizens,” Kissel said. “Even given the personal story that he had, he really did an outstanding job of going through the research, looking at what other states were doing and really presenting a well-balanced argument when he fought for his particular side on that issue, probably evincing some of the meticulousness that a doctor would have,” Kissel said.
Petit is scheduled to attend a news conference Friday in Simsbury with officials to launch a domestic violence awareness campaign.
The 5th Congressional District is represented by U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, a Democrat who is up for re-election next year. Petit was involved in fundraising for Lisa Wilson-Foley, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for the seat Esty won. Petit’s sister and father each served on the Plainville Town Council in suburban Hartford at different times.
Chapman said her brother told her he didn’t know if he would run for office.
In 2011, Petit successfully lobbied state senators to hold off on legislation to repeal the death penalty while one of the two killers was still facing a death penalty trial. Connecticut repealed the death penalty last year for future crimes.
In memory of his wife and their daughters, Petit created the Petit Family Foundation, which helps educate young people, improve the lives of those with chronic illnesses and protect those affected by violence.
Petit said this year he was excited about the prospect of a new baby, saying “children are always your jewels.”
Among his recent tweets, Petit quoted British writer Aldous Huxley: “Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.”
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