October 22, 2004: Headlines: COS - Fiji: Politics: Election2004 - Shays: Hartford Courant: Angry Shays Assails Farrell

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Fiji: Special Report: Former Congressman Chris Shays: RPCV Congressman Chris Shays: Archived Stories: October 22, 2004: Headlines: COS - Fiji: Politics: Election2004 - Shays: Hartford Courant: Angry Shays Assails Farrell

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Angry Shays Assails Farrell

Angry Shays Assails Farrell

Angry Shays Assails Farrell

Angry Shays Assails Farrell
Candidates Disagree In Televised Debate

October 22, 2004
By CHRISTOPHER KEATING, Capitol Bureau Chief

NORWALK -- Rep. Christopher Shays has had enough.

Clearly irritated by ongoing attacks by Democratic challenger Diane Farrell, Shays lashed out repeatedly Thursday against Farrell's record and her portrayal of Shays' views on taxes, transportation and terrorism.

In front of a live cable television audience in Fairfield County, the normally low-key Shays discarded his past strategy of largely ignoring his challenger and fired his own volleys.

"I have been catching grenades from my opponent for the past 10 months, and I haven't thrown them back," Shays told a crowd of more than 200 people during the final debate of an increasingly contentious campaign during which he attacked Farrell's record in Westport and her positions on issues.

During the past seven years while Farrell has served as first selectwoman of Westport, taxes and spending have doubled, Shays said. He charged after the debate that Farrell has shirked her responsibilities as an elected official during the campaign and has done virtually nothing as repairs at the Saugatuck railroad station in Westport have dragged on for months.

"She's been basically AWOL when it comes to her responsibilities in Westport," Shays said.

Farrell responded by saying that Shays is unaccustomed to an aggressive challenge because he has always won re-election by large margins and has not participated in a close race in more than a decade.

"He's clearly frustrated," Farrell said after the debate. "Now he's hitting me on my local record with 12 days to go? He's desperate."

Rejecting the notion that she has taken her eye off her hometown while setting her sights on the bright lights of Washington, Farrell released this week's report by Moody's Investors Service that affirmed Westport's AAA bond rating. She added that she has missed only one board of selectmen meeting during the past year, and that was because she was debating Shays.

During the one-hour debate Thursday at a Norwalk catering hall, Shays repeatedly returned to his theme that voters do not know Farrell's positions on taxes and transportation. Farrell has criticized Shays sharply on both issues, but she declined several times to outline her tax plans during the debate. After a detailed discussion about transportation, Shays said he still could not understand her position.

"That was vintage Diane Farrell!" Shays exclaimed after one answer. "You don't know her position on how to pay for transportation."

Farrell responded, "Chris' attacks suggesting that I am unclear surprise me because he calls himself a listener. He's the vice chairman of the budget committee. They're driving up the deficits, and somehow he says I'm the big tax and spender."

After the debate, Farrell said that she supports the elimination of the marriage penalty and boosting the child tax credit to $1,000 - two key planks of President Bush's tax cut that Shays supported. But she said she supports federal income tax increases only on those earning more than $1 million annually, which is higher than the level of her party's presidential candidate.

"I think Sen. Kerry's level of $200,000 is too low for residents in our district," Farrell said, referring to the affluent residents of lower Fairfield County. "The median income is around $200,000, which sounds so outrageous anywhere else, but it's the reality in our district. When you average in Bridgeport, it may be a little lower. But in Greenwich, Westport, New Canaan, Wilton, it's going to be there or a little higher."

The high-profile race has become more contentious as Farrell has closed the gap to single digits. The latest University of Connecticut poll says that Shays is ahead by 7 percentage points among likely voters, which Shays says matches his own polling. On Thursday, Shays described the contest as "a very close race" and would not boldly predict victory.

"I have two speeches prepared" for election night, Shays said. "I could win or lose this race. ... My 30 years in public service ends if I lose this election."

But Shays, a state legislator for 13 years and a 17-year congressional veteran who first won the seat in a special election in August 1987 after the death of Rep. Stewart McKinney, says he has never taken a race for granted and always runs as if he might lose.

Farrell and her supporters, though, said they saw a different Shays Thursday as he took off the gloves and either attacked her record or said she did not have one.

"I was surprised at how abrasive and petulant Chris got," said Jay Tepper, the Democratic chairman in New Canaan and a Farrell supporter. "If you've been in Congress, you've got to have a thicker skin than that."

Sensing that the race is close, the National Republican Congressional Committee has considered running campaign commercials on Shays' behalf. But Shays has told them to "stay out of the race," contending the ads would backfire and hurt him.

Although politics was the talk of the day, the baseball playoffs were not far off. One of the questioners, John Reilly of The Norwalk Hour, apologized for a hoarse voice, explaining that he had been rooting for the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the championship series Wednesday night.

"You should apologize for supporting the Red Sox," Shays said, cutting off the retired editor before he could ask his question.

"Over my dead body," the 75-year-old Reilly responded as the crowd laughed.

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Story Source: Hartford Courant

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



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