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Fiji RPCV Shays scores easy victory in repeat race
0,6389102.story?coll=stam%2Dnews%2Dlocal%2Dheadlines, Fiji RPCV Shays scores easy victory in repeat race
Shays scores easy victory in repeat race
By Ryan Jockers
November 6, 2002
U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, a 15-year Republican incumbent, defeated Stephanie Sanchez, his Democratic opponent, yesterday by garnering more than 60 percent of the vote in the 17 towns in the 4th Congressional District.
Shays won by more votes than he did two years ago, when Sanchez, a former Greenwich selectman, first challenged him and received about 42 percent of the vote.
But with the nation facing economic and terrorism issues that favor an incumbent, Sanchez could not turn the momentum from her strong 2000 campaign into an upset.
Unofficial results showed Shays getting 59,147 votes and Sanchez receiving 35,607, with 76 percent of the district's precincts reporting.
At the Norwalk Inn & Conference Center last night, Shays, 57, of Bridgeport, said he was thrilled with the results.
He won 16 of the 17 municipalities in the district, which encompasses the Fairfield County shoreline. Sanchez only carried Bridgeport.
Shays attributed the win to several factors, including his work to reform the campaign finance system and his experience with terrorism issues.
He added that the race was not as close as 2000 because the district expanded after the last census and his campaign "did a better job of getting our story out" in those new towns -- most of which are Republican.
Shays also said Sanchez could not ride the coattails this year of U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Democrat who two years ago was running for the vice presidency and the Senate.
Shays said he will focus on fighting terrorism, jump-starting the economy and cleaning up the corruption in Bridgeport government in an effort to revitalize the city. He moved to Bridgeport from Stamford three years ago.
At Democratic headquarters in South Norwalk, Sanchez, 35, of Stamford, said she was not surprised by the result but was disconcerted by a perceived lack of interest among voters. Sanchez said she was not helped by a low turnout.
"I had a bad feeling yesterday at the train stations," Sanchez said, of her campaigning on Monday. "I sensed an overwhelming feeling of apathy, that people were not focused on the issues."
A major difference between the candidates during the campaign was their stance on U.S. involvement in Iraq: Shays supports a pre-emptive attack to keep Saddam Hussein from obtaining nuclear weapons, while Sanchez supports restarting a weapons inspection program and working with the United Nations and U.S. allies.
The candidates debated four times during the race and participated in another four forums in which they both discussed their platforms.
One of Sanchez's main arguments was that the problems facing the 4th Congressional District -- such as congested roadways -- had worsened since Shays took office in 1987, and that the largest municipality in the district, Bridgeport, had become poorer.
Unlike two years ago, Sanchez did not vow to run again. She said vaguely that "there would be another day" in politics and that she would continue with efforts, possibly on a grass-roots level, to revitalize Bridgeport.
Betsy Hawkings, who has worked for Shays for 14 years and has been his chief of staff half of that time, said voters seem to appreciate Shays' dedication and honesty.
"You're not going to get everyone to agree on every issue," Hawkings said, "but he works hard and tells the truth and does what he thinks is right, and his constituents seem to be telling him that that is what they want him to do."
Copyright © 2002, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.