J.T. Lewis, brother of young Sandy Hook hero, running for state Senate in Connecticut

John Bacon
J.T. Lewis, brother of Sandy Hook mass shooting victim Jesse Lewis, watches as Andy Pollack, father of Parkland shooting victim Meadow Pollack, and President Donald Trump shake hands during a round-table discussion about school safety on Dec. 18, 2018.

The brother of a child killed in the Sandy Hook school massacre is running for the Connecticut state Senate, saying politicians have not done enough to curb school violence.

J.T. Lewis, 19, released a video on social media this week saying he will challenge Republican state Sen. Tony Hwang in 2020.

The teen's brother, Jesse Lewis, was a 6-year-old first grader on Dec. 14, 2012, when a 20-year-old gunman burst into Sandy Hook Elementary and started shooting. The toll was chilling: Twenty young students and six staff members were killed before the attacker fatally shot himself.

Lewis told USA TODAY he believes both major parties want to see kids safe at schools and that he is "uniquely positioned" to reach out to both sides of the aisle.

"As soon as I take office, I‘ll do my best to bridge a divided political world," he said Wednesday. "And attempt to tackle the issue of school violence from three angles: mental health, gun legislation and securing schools.”

In his video, Lewis noted that his little brother was praised as a hero for urging several classmates to run to safety when the killer's gun jammed. J.T. Lewis said that, after the attack, "a mom and a little boy" called their state senator.

"They wanted to help prevent future tragedies. But the senator never returned their calls," Lewis says in the video. "That senator is our current state Sen. Tony Hwang and the little boy who just wanted to hear his mom's call for help heard has grown up."

Sandy Hook anniversary: Reflection after years of advocacy

Hwang, who was a state representative before taking his seat in the Senate in 2015, told USA TODAY he can "appreciate and respect" anyone's desire to run for public office.

"I will always rise above accusations and political negatives," Hwang said.

In 2016, Lewis won the Courage Award at the Teen Choice Awards. He was cited for his good works after his brother's death, which included starting the Newtown Helps Rwanda program to support genocide survivors.

Lewis, a student at the University of Connecticut, said that in recent years he has met with numerous political leaders, including President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump. But none have led a successful effort to curb the type of violence his family has experienced, he says.

"Our leaders are in it for themselves, to take pictures and fuel an inflated sense of importance," he says. "I am young, but I know how to lead."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sandy Hook: Brother of young hero kicks off political career