JT Lewis announced Monday that he will challenge sitting state Sen. Tony Hwang for the Republican nomination in District 28 next year. The seat represents the cities of Newtown and Fairfield.
“To honor Jesse, I’ve decided to be courageous enough to run for state Senate in my home state of Connecticut,” Lewis said in a video posted to Twitter.
The candidate has long advocated for gun safety and school safety issues online, and has met to discuss the topics with state lawmakers multiple times.
He just finished his freshman year at the University of Connecticut, and said he made the decision to run because he believes Connecticut’s politicians are not doing enough. Lewis said in his video that “our leaders are in it for themselves, to take pictures and fuel an inflated sense of importance.”
He also accused Hwang, who local media said has supported stronger gun control legislation, of not responding when his family contacted the lawmaker after the 2012 shooting, when Hwang was a state representative for Fairfield and Trumbull. (Hwang did not represent Newtown until 2015, when he became a state senator.)
After the Sandy Hook shooting, and following his election to state Senate, my family called Tony Hwang for help.— JT Lewis (@thejtlewis) July 15, 2019
Tony actually apologized for “dropping the ball” & not returning our call, but years too late.
It’s time to elect someone who would have returned that call.#JT4CT pic.twitter.com/Cjf7V2xVhu
The lawmaker told HuffPost that he respects “anyone’s desire to run for public office” and will “always rise above accusations and political negatives.”
Lewis told HuffPost on Tuesday that, although he supports some gun legislation, his focus over the past year has been on policy that encourages school safety. He said he’s advocating for police or highly trained armed guards in schools but stressed he doesn’t support arming teachers.
“My mission as a state Senator will be to bring both sides together,” Lewis said in a statement. “I’m uniquely positioned as the brother of a gun violence victim and a Republican candidate to get something done!”
Jesse Lewis was one of 20 first graders who were killed in the Sandy Hook massacre on Dec. 14, 2012. Police said the 6-year-old helped save at least nine lives in his last moments when he told classmates to run while the gunman’s rifle was jammed.
Jesse wrote “nurturing, healing love” (phonetically spelled) on a chalkboard in their home days before he was murdered. In the aftermath, Jesse and JT’s mother Scarlett Lewis created the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, a charity focused on making sure children have access to social and emotional learning in their schools.
“My brother gave his life to save his friends. My mom took a message Jesse left of ‘nurturing, healing love,’ and made her life’s mission to spread those words. My other brother serves as a police officer,” JT Lewis said. “It’s my time.”
Lewis touted the political connections he’s made in recent years, saying, “I’m young, but I already know how to lead.” The candidate met then-President Barack Obama two days after the Sandy Hook shooting, when he delivered a speech at Newtown High School. Lewis and his mother also met President Donald Trump in December 2018 while attending a roundtable discussion on school security at the White House.
“Both President Trump and President Obama treated me with the utmost respect and class. More importantly, they honored my brother’s memory,” Lewis tweeted. “A lesson: Politics only divides us if we allow it to. We are all Americans.”
This article has been updated with a statement from Lewis.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.