On Monday, Republican candidate for Congress Dan Debicella stood in front of the failed Derecktor Shipyards lot criticizing Democratic incumbent Jim Himes for supporting a $3 million government assistance package for the bottomed-out luxury yacht builder in the city’s East End, claiming Himes backed a sweetheart deal. Essentially, Debicella was recycling a GOP campaign complaint from two years ago. What Debicella did not mention–and perhaps did not know–is as a state senator he voted to authorize funding for the shipyard before Himes was even a member of Congress.
Prompted by a question from CT Post reporter Brian Lockhart during the news conference if he had ever voted on anything related to Derecktor while a state senator, Debicella sidestepped, replying, “There’s nothing I ever championed that said let’s give a sweetheart deal to one specific business.”
“The timeline here is very clear,” Debicella added in a statament. “Jim Himes voted in 2009 to give Derecktor $3 million. In 2010 he tours the facility for a photo op. Then just two years later they go bankrupt for the second time in five years. Then later that year when asked about Derecktor, Himes denied he had nothing to do with it.”
The timeline here is very clear, according to Debicella’s perspective. Well, not exactly. Himes did not vote in 2009 to give Derecktor $3 million because it was not a line item in the overall federal stimulus package he did support.
In October 2007 State Senator Debicella voted in favor of the bonding package approved by the Connecticut General Assembly that included an authorization for “Grant-in-aid to the Bridgeport Port Authority for improvements to the Derecktor Shipyard, including remediation, dredging, bulkheading and construction of Phase 2 of the Derecktor Shipyard Economic Development Plan, not exceeding $1,750,000.”
Elected in November 2008, Himes voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February 2009 that included $100 million for the U.S. Maritime Administration’s Small Shipyards Grant Program. Through a competitive grant application Derecktor independently pursued a grant under the program. In August 2009, Derecktor Shipyards was awarded $2,986,620 for dry dock modifications.
On October 30, 2009, according to minutes of the State Bond Commission, a $1 million authorization was approved for Derecktor Shipyards for “modifications to company dry dock in Bridgeport.” It was to supplement federal stimulus funds under the authority from the legislative approval in 2007 supported by Debicella.
Libby Carlson, campaign spokesperson for Himes, declared following Debicella’s news conference Monday that he wants to have it both ways blasting the stimulus bill but touting grants to his towns when he served in the State Senate.
“Dan Debicella is criticizing Jim Himes for voting for the Recovery Act, which was critical to helping Southwest Connecticut recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Dan Debicella is criticizing one Recovery Act project while he celebrated a series of projects in the law that benefited his state Senate district.”
And the beat goes on, posturing for an edge in a political campaign. One says this and the other says that, and sometimes it’s a little bit of both, one way or the other.
Himes and Debicella, a Bridgeport native, faced off in 2010 when Himes won by six points. Debicella’s making a greater effort this time around to appeal to voters in the city of his birth. And Himes, who must maximize his urban base, will be making many more stops in the state’s largest city in the coming weeks.