CT-04: Chris Shays' Liberal Makeover

As I'm based at my parents' house here in CT for a couple of weeks, I thought I ought to go check out their congressman Chris Shays -- aka New England's last remaining Republican House member -- in person at a townhall he held nearby. To his credit, Shays holds a series of these events on weekends to speak to constituents -- he held 4 yesterday and 2 today. Each event runs an hour and a half and is framed as "a conversation." But it quickly became clear to me that this series of townhalls is essentially his "see, really, I'm a liberal, I swear" tour and it was actually sort of sad.

Shays started this "conversation" by running through some sweet graphs he had made up that demonstrate just how independent he is from his party and from Bush. This is a D+5 district after all, he knows the party and the president are at the depths of popularity, but he also knows that this presidential year there is going to be unprecedented turnout among Democrats. He also knows his challenger, Jim Himes, is formidable and is collecting a daunting warchest of his own. So to survive, Shays must paint himself as a liberal, in other words, blur the distinctions between him and Himes as he and Lieberman did successfully on the issue of the war in 2006.

First up was a chart tracking his position on the liberal/conservative continuum. According to National Journal, Shays voted 52% conservative and 48% liberal for 2007. Ahh, yes, right in the center, to the right of Lieberman (57% liberal/43% conservative) and to the left of Chuck Hagel (61% conservative/39% liberal.) Next was how often he voted with Bush. After a peak of 82% in 2002, it dropped to 33% with the Democratic majority in 2007 as compared with 93% of John Boehner. Then he showed us his Republican party unity score: 67% vs. 99% for Boehner and 90% for John McCain.

The fact that he began in such a defensive crouch said a lot, of course, about how vulnerable he believes he is this year, but as he spun his answers to constituent questions, it became even clearer just what a liberal makeover he is attempting.

On the environment and alternative fuels, he bashed Bush for not acting. "The next president needs to do what this president didn't..."

On Iraq, suddenly he regrets his vote. He actually used the words "I wouldn't have voted for it if I'd known how badly Rumsfeld would have managed it." To the best of my knowledge, this is new language. Also, when I confronted him with the fact that in 2006 he advocated a timeline for withdrawal yet every time he was given an opportunity to vote for a timeline he voted against it, he made a point of boasting of his support for another bill that would have had the troops out by end of 08. What he conveniently leaves out was that that bill was not up for a vote. I asked him what a withdrawal bill right now would have to look like to get him to support it. He didn't answer.

And on the topic of what victory in Iraq looks like, to his credit he actually answered the question and it involves a troop presence of 40-60k through end of 2009, which he made a point of saying "is fewer than the 80k Barack Obama's advisor said would be there." The downside to off-message advisors: giving political cover to down-ticket Republicans.

Oh and this was rich: suddenly Shays has a healthcare plan and sounded downright Clintonian and Obamanian on the subject: "Americans should have the same healthcare choices I have as a federal employee."

You know this is going to be the strategy of many of the so-called moderate Republicans running for their lives this year -- a blurring of their entire records with their Democratic opponents, just as they did on Iraq in 06. The blurring has begun, it's up to us to call them on it. It's also really important to promote and support the embarrassment of riches that is our Democratic challengers this year and so please support Jim Himes's campaign if you can.

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End Of Quarter Alert

Today is the last day of the quarter, which means if you haven't given, today is the day to give. No doubt many readers have given to their preferred presidential candidate but I hope you will consider being generous with our excellent congressional challengers as well. We have a lot of great ones and they deserve your support. Here are two that have gotten some end of quarter dollars from yours truly.

  • Darcy Burner in WA-08: Darcy is coming to Los Angeles on the 9th for a low dollar fundraiser. If you're in LA and want to attend, it's just $25, but it's important to give and RSVP today at the event's Act Blue page. Even if you're not able to attend, you can still use the page to give to Darcy's campaign.

    From the event's Facebook page:

    The event will be from 6:00pm to 8:00 at a supporter's home, and it's only $25 to get in and meet Darcy (or $100 to be on the host committee). Darcy is not only a co-author of the new Responsible Plan to end the War in Iraq, but also a leader on issues like telecom immunity and net neutrality.
  • Jim Himes in CT-04: Join me in giving just $20.08 to his campaign by midnight tonight. Here's Jim's pitch:

    I deeply want you to be invested in what we're doing in this campaign - in repairing the damage that Chris Shays and George Bush have caused, and refocusing our priorities by bringing a stronger progressive majority to Congress.

    For more on the campaign to send the last Republican congressman in New England packing, check out the Jim Himes campaign blog.

I have to run out but there are plenty more challengers deserving our support. Check out the MyDD diaries on behalf of Joe Garcia in FL-25 and Tom Perriello in VA-05 for just two more. Also, check out Senate Guru's new home for a great graphic rundown of the senate challengers that could use your help.

I want everyone to commit to give to at least one congressional challenger by midnight tonight, even if it's just a few bucks. Tell us who you're supporting -- with contribution link -- in the comments.

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CT-04: Before The Ball Drops...Jim Himes For Congress

Lest we forget, next week not only brings us the long awaited Iowa caucuses but it also marks the end of the year and, with that, the end of the fundraising quarter. Many campaigns are no doubt inundating your inboxes with fundraising asks and I hope you'll consider supporting one or more of our many excellent candidates running next year. I wanted to draw your attention to just one of them.

As I've been home in Connecticut for the holidays, I was lucky enough to meet CT-04 Democratic challenger, Jim Himes, who we all hope will be sending Chris Shays, aka the last Republican left in New England, packing in November. I definitely left the meeting impressed with Himes and excited that we can finally defeat the faux moderate right-wing enabler Shays.

To give you just a sense of the challenger we have in Jim Himes, go check out his liveblog over at FDL from earlier today. An excerpt from his post:

I came across Rockwell's "Freedoms" paintings some time ago, and I was struck by "Freedom from Fear". The paintings, of course, were based on Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms". Fredom from Fear . . . imagine! The administration has used fear--fear of attack, fear of people who look, pray or think differently, fear of immigrants, fear of change--for so long that it's now part of the background noise. I was in Bridgeport for a meeting with community activists a few weeks ago, and a burly African American man stood up to talk passionately about the fear he feels, the sense that government has devoted itself not to giving people like him a leg up or a catch should he fall, but to the narrow interests of people who really don't need its help.

I think a big part of distilling the progressive message in the face of universally bungled government will consist of taking seriously the notion of Freedom from Fear, and addressing the anxiety I sense around my district by pointing out that government once not only protected the vulnerable and the needy, but did great ambitious things that benefited all of us.


The Himes campaign is looking to reach 500 Q4 contributors by the end of the quarter Monday night. Can you give him some love at his ActBlue page and help put him over the top? Also can't hurt to join the Himes For Congress Facebook page to keep plugged into what is sure to be one of the top tier congressional races of 2008.

What other candidates are you contributing to this quarter? Let us know in the comments with links.

[editor's note, by Todd Beeton]I should have been more specific, their goal is 500 contributions for the 4th quarter by midnight Monday. As of this update they have 456, let's help them over the top at ActBlue.

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CT-04: Get Your Blograiser On For Jim Himes

The good folks of Connecticut's 4th district are holding another end of quarter blograiser to help elect a progressive Democrat, Jim Himes, to replace New England's last remaining Republican. We came close last year but not close enough. Can you help the 4th finish the job?

If you're near Bridegeport, CT and can make it, details of the event on Saturday are to the right. As you can see, the suggested donation is $25 and it will include a pub quiz (aww yeahh!) But even if you can't be there in person, please consider donating via ActBlue to help Jim Himes close out what has been a phenomenal fundraising year with a bang.

CT-04 is my home district so I'm particularly vested in booting Chris Shays. He used to actually represent the district, but during the Bush years his independent streak such as it was gave way to partisan loyalty during which he stood up to Bush, much like his fellow faux-moderate and Lieber-ally, Susan Collins, only when it didn't matter.

Lately, poor Chris Shays seems to really be losing it. A few months ago, there was his rant against a liberal blogger at a press avail ("You're totally a Democrat!") which may have been topped by his gushing praise of Blackwater at a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ("Thank you for doing a perfect job!") and now, TParty alerts us to what is deserving of outrage in bizarro Shays world: steroids in baseball ("I was just stunned by it because I haven't see worse behavior in anyone in my 20 years in public life in Congress.") Wow.

Chris Shays's priorities are so out of whack, not only with the 4th district, but with mainstream America as a whole. We've really got to send him packing next year, and fortunately we're lucky to have just the guy to take him down in Jim Himes. If you can make it Saturday, definitely swing by Murphy's Law for a fun pub quiz and some drinks and meet Jim in person. If not, you can get to know the future congressman from CT-04 at HimesForCongress.com. But either way, please stop by ActBlue and show him some love so we can turn New England blue once and for all.

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The "Worst Behavior" in Congress in 20 Years? Really?

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos.)

Chris Shays (CT-04) has been in office for two long (too long) decades.

Over that time, he's had the opportunity to question countless witnesses in Congressional hearings - questionable, criminal, devious, and laughable characters ranging from Brownie to Rummy to Wolfie.

The other day, he gave an interview to a major national website. And guess who he told them had exhibited the "worst behavior" he's seen in Congress over all those years?

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