Navigating Himes-Debicella Maritime Political Posturing

Himes, Debicella
Jim Himes, left, and Dan Debicella face off again. CT Post photo.

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.”

Derecktor Shipyards
Derecktor Shipyards that once employed 300 is no more.

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.



  1. In the longstanding tradition of many Native American tribes, “speaking with a forked tongue” has meant lying, and a person was no longer considered worthy of trust once he had been shown to “speak with a forked tongue.”

  2. Sidebar:
    It is so sad Marina Village is dealing with yet another shooting within a two-week timeframe.

    One can only imagine what will happen when the Arena and Harbor yard completely become an undesirable destination as the cancer spreads when replacement housing for Marina Village is built downtown. You can make the housing as attractive as possible but the element will still be there and Bridgeport has never and will never learn from its bad decisions. That will be for another generation to figure out.

    I would hope the Mayor and Mr. Kooris are working diligently in trying to find another spot for the relocation.

    So like all areas of Bridgeport, there is not one long stretch without driving through questionable territory.
    As the South End attempts to gentrify, downtown will have yet another Public Housing facility, which will make downtown north a difficult dream to sell.

    Spinnaker may want to flex some muscle to nix the project because nobody is going to want to pay high rents living down the street from a housing project across the street from a vacant Arena and BallPark.

    If no potential Mayoral candidate has a comment on this travesty, they may as well forget any future aspirations because you cannot come out of the woodwork at the 11th hour condemning this project.


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