October 18, 2004: Headlines: COS - Fiji: Politics: Congress: Election2004 - Shays: New York Times: Chris Shays Resists Changing His Political Tactics or His Stands

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Fiji: Special Report: Former Congressman Chris Shays: RPCV Congressman Chris Shays: Archived Stories: October 18, 2004: Headlines: COS - Fiji: Politics: Congress: Election2004 - Shays: New York Times: Chris Shays Resists Changing His Political Tactics or His Stands

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Chris Shays Resists Changing His Political Tactics or His Stands

Chris Shays Resists Changing His Political Tactics or His Stands

Chris Shays Resists Changing His Political Tactics or His Stands

Connecticut Congressman Resists Changing His Political Tactics or His Stands

Published: October 18, 2004

STAMFORD, Conn., Oct. 17 - Christopher Shays has always been stubborn about some things.

As a state legislator in 1985, he spent a few nights in jail on a contempt charge because he refused to apologize to the judge who had put him there for an outburst in the courtroom.

As a longtime Republican congressman, Mr. Shays has been unflinching in his support for the war in Iraq, calling it part of the war against terror and something the United States should have tackled sooner.

He has been just as stubborn in the way he has run his campaign for re-election from Connecticut's Fourth District. In an interview last week, he said that no matter what the polls show in coming weeks, he is going to run on his own record and, as a matter of principle, will not make negative attacks on his Democratic challenger, Diane Farrell.

Mrs. Farrell has shown less hesitation. Currently the first selectwoman of Westport, she has skewered Mr. Shays for supporting the war in Iraq and is banking on John Kerry's many supporters in the district to side with her position on the war. She has also sought to tie Mr. Shays to the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

With little more than two weeks till the election, Mr. Shays acknowledged that Mrs. Farrell had made inroads but said he expected to win on Nov. 2. On Thursday, a poll released by the University of Connecticut, the first independent assessment of the closely watched race, gave him an eight-point edge over Mrs. Farrell among likely voters, with 12 percent of voters still undecided. The poll has a margin of error of 4.3 percent.

Mr. Shays said the erosion of his usual double-digit lead was to be expected, given "almost 10 months of constant attack" from his opponent.

He said he was willing to lose the election if voters disagreed with his stance on the war. But he said he did not deserve to be lumped with the Republican right, since he bucks his party on issues from campaign finance reform to the environment.

Some of his advisers, he said, are pressing him to return some of the negative volleys, especially if his lead shrinks, but he said he would rather lose than take the advice. "It ain't going to happen," he said, noting that his resolve on this point gives his opponent an advantage.

"She knows for the 30 years I have been in public office, I have run positive campaigns," said Mr. Shays, counting the 13 years he was a state legislator as well as his 17 years in Congress. "And I am not going to change now, no matter what the polls say."

He also said he would prepare two speeches for election night. He said that was not an indication that he anticipated defeat but simply was his longstanding practice. Even when he wins by large margins, he said, he agonizes about votes that go the other way.

The district that he and Mrs. Farrell are fighting over encompasses much of Fairfield County and some of New Haven County. Democrats have a nominal edge over Republicans. Unaffiliated registered voters outnumber both, so middle-of-the-road candidates tend to do better.

Calling the race a priority, Democratic leaders helped Mrs. Farrell raise campaign money, reaching $1.25 million as of September. That is about three-quarters of what Mr. Shays has raised with less help from his party leaders in Washington.

Both candidates, however, have been helped by party headliners.

John McCain, the Arizona senator who beat George W. Bush in Connecticut's Republican primary in 2000, accompanied Mr. Shays last Monday to fund-raisers in Fairfield and Greenwich and a town hall meeting strategically convened in Mrs. Farrell's backyard, Westport.

"Chris Shays is well known for the independence of his thought and actions," Senator McCain said. He said he and Mr. Shays had a "lonely fight" within the Republican Party.

On Friday, Ann Richards, the former Texas governor, appeared at a fund-raiser in Stamford for Mrs. Farrell, whom she came to know as a director of Save the Children, a Westport-based charity. She told Mrs. Farrell that her candidacy would benefit from the feeling that so much is at stake at the national level.

Mrs. Farrell's toughest challenge has come in her five debates thus far with Mr. Shays, exchanges that have grown increasingly contentious.

During a debate on Friday in Bridgeport, Mrs. Farrell read aloud Senator McCain's scathing comments about a corporate tax bill that Mr. Shays had voted for.

Mr. Shays, in turn, asked Mrs. Farrell if she also grilled Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, about the war, since the senator's views are similar to his own.

Mrs. Farrell retorted that Senator Lieberman supports her, not him. Mr. Shays pointed out that Senator McCain backed him, not her.

"There's still time," she interjected, getting the last word.

With one debate and many appearances to go, much could change, especially if Mr. Shays stumbles. The Farrell campaign is parsing his every word and made hay last week with his comment that Representative Tom DeLay of Texas was a "great majority leader." Mr. Shays said his opponent left out the rest of his statement in which he said he did not expect Mr. DeLay to be able to rise to speaker of the House, an allusion to the ethical storms that could cost Mr. DeLay that prize.

Mrs. Farrell has also had a field day with Mr. Shays's recent public musings that if he lost the Congressional race, he might run for mayor of Bridgeport, where he and his wife, Betsi, live. The Farrell camp viewed the comment as the next best thing to a concession speech. Mr. Shays said he was simply trying to "let the people of Bridgeport know how much I love it."

Ken Dautrich, the public policy professor at the University of Connecticut who oversaw the poll, said, "If you had to bet, you would have to bet on him," referring to Mr. Shays. "But he'd like the margin to be bigger than it is."

When this story was posted in October 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: New York Times

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Fiji; Politics; Congress; Election2004 - Shays



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