NEWTOWN, Conn. (WTNH)–A Republican State Senator is facing a challenge from an upstart college student.

JT Lewis, the brother of a Sandy Hook victim, announced he is looking to primary Sen. Tony Hwang (R-28th District).

Lewis is not yet 20 years old but has spent more time in the West Wing working on legislation than most members of Congress.

The UConn sophomore and football team member announced his run in a video posted to his more than 100,000 social media followers.

He said he is running to honor his little brother, Jesse, who yelled to his classmates to run then stayed back to protect his teacher on December 14, 2012 when a gunman opened fire at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lewis believes the tragedy he experienced puts him in a position to tackle some of his districts most sensitive issues, such as guns.

“As a brother of a Sandy Hook victim and a Second Amendment supporter, I think I’m uniquely positioned to bring these two groups together,” Lewis told News 8’s George Colli from his Newtown home. “That’s something as a state senator that I’ll be in a unique position to do.”

Lewis needs to get by three-term State Senator Tony Hwang in a primary in order to get on the general election ballot. Lewis says he first considered taking Hwang on after the newly elected State Senator ignored calls to talk about school safety from him and his mother. His mother, Scarlett Lewis, founded the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation in the weeks following the shooting. The education curriculum is in classrooms in every state in the US and 80 other countries around the world.

“He has a lot going on and it’s not just him but it’s our leaders in general here in Connecticut,” said Lewis. “We need to bring real leadership, people that will return those hard phone calls and that’s what I’m going to do.”

A 2016 MTV Music Awards Courage award recipient, Lewis spent his teenage years advocating for others that survived traumatic events. It includes raising money for college scholarships for Rwandan orphan genocide survivors and establishing self-sustaining fish and poultry farms in that war-torn country. He turned his focus to school safety following the Parkland High School Shooting.

“That’s armed guards, securing the schools, anything we can do to make the teachers feel prepared for a circumstance like this,” said Lewis. “Six months later, I was in the Oval Office and releasing the most comprehensive school safety report ever with the President of the United States.”

Lewis says he’s learned from working with both the Obama and Trump administrations that the political adversaries are not that far off on many important topics. He says they just approach them from different angles.

“We really do all have the same goal,” said Lewis. “Once we sit down and get a group together and explain ‘here’s what you’re doing, here’s what you’re doing…it’s really easy to come together at a table like that.”

Lewis has some work to do before the primary, like obtaining enough signatures to get on the ballot, but is confident he can give the sitting state Senator a run for his money.

News 8 reached out to Tony Hwang for comment but he did not return our calls. He told the Newtown Bee that he is open to anyone entering the political process, but believes that Lewis’s characterizations are unfair.


Free download: Access Connecticut breaking news, weather, stream newscasts live and more on-the-go with News 8 alerts directly to your phone.