Shays, Himes Lace Up Gloves At Housy

Addressing healthcare, two wars, and taxes and spending Congressman Christopher Shays and his Democratic opponent Jim Himes served up some crackling exchanges Tuesday morning in their first debate in a seven-day stretch of forums.

Following opening remarks in which both candidates highlighted their background, Shays, the former Peace Corps worker and Himes, the Harvard-educated Rhodes Scholar with an investment banking background, went after each other both cordially and forcefully in the newly opened Beacon Hall on the campus of Housatonic Community College attended by more than 100 members of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, sponsor of the debate.

Shays, characterizing his “rebellious spirit,” and criticizing Himes for distorting his record, was the aggressor from the start, questioning why Himes would want to defeat the only New England Republican in the House of Representatives that’s reached across party lines.

“I go where the truth takes me no matter the consequences,” said Shays who early on held up a copy of the Congessional Quarterly to evidence his independent-voting streak.

“I’m not a politician,” Himes told the audience, saying America is a vastly different place than the country of his childhood. He hit Shays for suggesting several weeks ago that the fundamentals of the economy are strong, and often attached Shays to the failed policies of the Bush administration.

The best exchange occurred on the subject of taxes and spending. Shays chided Himes for supporting the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, with a swipe at his credentialed schooling.

“When you let the tax cuts expire I don’t need to be a Rhodes Scholar to know that taxes go up,” Shays explained, citing a litany of taxes that will increase as a result.

“They’re tax deferrals,” Himes responded, suggesting tax increases will hit the wealthy, and not middle and lower income levels.

“You’d fit in, in Washington,” Shays responded, “because that’s double speak.”

Himes appeared off-guard at Shays’ remark, but regained himself. “Let’s keep the discussion honest,” Himes retorted. “Never have we cut taxes going into a war. Shays voted with Bush and Cheney” to cut taxes when spending went up “radically.”

The topic of the debate was healthcare, and both candidates agreed that government must take an active role to bring down costs and provide coverage.

“I agree with Barack,” said Shays. “Americans should have the same health care as federal employees.” Both candidates said that means tapping into a government-sponsored program to create larger insurance pools to provide medical choices and affordability. Shays empasized his efforts to increase community-based health clinics.

Himes also said streamlining lengthy medical forms would reduce healthcare costs. Shays said Connecticut is losing doctors because the legislature is taxing them out of the state. And both candidates, prompted by a question from panel member Michael Daly, manging editor of the Connecticut Post, said a key to improved healthtcare is economic development and job creation in Bridgeport. Shays told the audience that he pays $24,000 a year in property taxes on his home in Black Rock.

On the subject of the Iraq war, Himes noted that $10 billion is spent every month in Iraq while ignoring Afghanistan where the fighting should have been the focus from the start. Shays said his timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq is five months sooner than Barack Obama’s proposal.

Both candidates seemed to do what they needed to: Shays highlighting his experience and independent streak that registers results for the 17-town Fourth Congressional District while Himes framed himself as the fresh face with pragmatic solutions during traumatic financial times. Shays came across defensive in the early stages before gaining his footing. Himes appeared nervous at the outset but developed traction as issue discussion developed.

My take: no harm, no foul, but the two candidates have many more debates this week so a verbal gaffe is always possible.

The best line of the morning goes to debate moderator Chuck Firlotte, chief executive of Aquarion. When Shays paused mid-sentence to ask for water Firlotte replied: “I know a nice company that provides it.”

If you want to harass me on the radio this afternoon I’ll be a guest on David Smith’s show on WICC at 2 p.m.

Tonight at 7:30 Mayor Bill Finch and the Board of Police Commissioners are scheduled to meet in City Council chambers to discuss appointment of an acting police chief following Bryan Norwood’s resignation last week. Selection of a chief with a five-year term, from a national search, will take many months.



  1. Why was Chris Shays whining about living in Bridgeport? If you loved your home so much in Stamford then go back; people in Bridgeport don’t care if you move or not. Now to Himes I really feel he has to kick it up a notch in Bridgeport. The only place you see Himes yard signs in Bridgeport is the Black Rock section. If you go around the East End, East Side, West End and South Side you do not see even 1 Himes yard sign. And trust me Yard signs do make a difference because people in the city are not familiar with Himes. I hate to say it but Shays is running a better campaign in Bridgeport than Himes and many people have said that too. I am very upset at the Himes campaign on how they have run their campaign in the city that will decide if he wins or loses. I have to give Shays credit he is running a good campaign in Bridgeport. I still won’t vote for him but I have to give him some credit on that.

  2. You guys been talking how Himes is running a bad campaign and to some degree I have to agree. In 2004 2006 Farrell was handing out yard signs not just for her but for Kerry too and I have to say this year is different. I have not received any campaign letters from Himes but I sure received about 10 from Shays already. I have not seen people door-knocking for Himes, but I have seen door-knocking for Shays and Shays has his yard signs up everywhere in Bridgeport. I have yet to see any Himes yard signs. What I am trying to say is for a strong Democratic City like Bpt the Himes campaign is not making the best of it and the Shays Campaign is working hard for every vote. What the hell is the Himes campaign doing with so much money? I still cannot believe how horrible the Himes campaign is running in Bridgeport.

  3. You can watch the “Good Himes Roll” over “Shays It Ain’t So, Chris” on News12 this evening at eight. This will be the taped debate between Himes and Shays that took place this afternoon in Norwalk.

  4. “When you let the tax cuts expire you don’t need to be a Rhodes Scholar to know that taxes go up,” Shays explained, citing a litany of taxes that will increase as a result. <— Shays

    Representative Shays: when the tax cuts expire it’s much more certain that the deficit goes up. You don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to know that 8 years of tax cuts for the top 10% have done nothing for the American spirit, its housing stock, its equity market or its reputation abroad. What’s good for deficits is bad for the USA. The same people who got tax cuts are the exact same people who’ve benefited from the growing deficit.

    Any Rhodes Scholar knows that all laws in the USA are made in Congress. This blogger wants you to know that Congress’ mistakes have cost us our position in the world today.

  5. Lennie, hasn’t it been said that in a debate, if the challenger doesn’t score a punch, then the incumbent gets the point? From what I’m reading, whether or not Shays got angry, Himes didn’t seem to score any points. He stands a great chance to win B’port on Obama’s coattails but may not get enough to squeak in.

  6. I’ve said this before, but this is a very tough city to understand. You really have to live here and have followed city politics for years to understand how this city works. I have been for years and I still have a tough time understanding it. I think Himes expected to stroll in here with arms wide open for him and just be able lock Bridgeport up with no work.

    But while this city is obviously Democratic, we’re more involved in our politics than I’d say any other place in the state; and we’re tough. Look at the mayor, who’s a Bridgeporter and involved in politics here for a long time. How many months did it take everyone to slice him up?

    I think both sides have good points on the problems in this city, but I’m almost always going to take the person who knows this city over the person who doesn’t; and say what you want about Shays, but there’s no denying he can hold his weight in Bridgeport. I thought Farrell might have had him, but boy was I wrong. That was impressive.

  7. ACORN update …
    ACORN’s representatives have claimed that Bridgeport’s Republican (code for uptight conservative honky) Registrar of voters has an agenda to discredit the organization. If that’s so, it is organized on a national level. ACORN is being investigated for fraudulent voter registrations in New Mexico, Indiana, Missouri, Connecticut, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Nevada. In addition to the seven-year-old registered in Bridgeport, Nevada officials are looking into why ACORN registered members of the Dallas Cowboys in their state.

  8. According to Mojo, “I believe Mr. Roach was never one of the B/R residents that did not have a problem with Celli getting the old bank/salvation army building. Why, because he wanted to either buy or lease from the city, the small parking lot between his store & the now BRAC building. So he was against Celli’s proposal from the start!” Wro-o-o-o-ong-a-mundo, Mr./Ms. Mojo.

    Danny Roach owned a general store, the kind of urban institution that sells cigarettes, lottery tickets, beer, and prepared foods that don’t require much fixing. The store itself was not much bigger than a breadbox, and the customer turnover was so rapid that there was never a parking problem. With about 60% of the business walking in, parking was never an issue. Roach never wanted to buy the building to create a larger parking lot. That was a rumor started by those followers of Joe “Up Yours Bridgeport” Celli that had drunk and become intoxicated by the Koolaid Celli serves. Roach wasn’t against the IPA proposal; he didn’t care for the person doing the proposing. Mr. Celli is only concerned with those Bridgeport residents that have disposable income. He is more than helpful in assisting in the disposal part. He’ll take the money off their hands if they don’t want it.

  9. Watch today at 8pm new TV show: “Bridgeport Now”

    Today’s Topic: Bridgeport, Conn. ACORN local chapter discusses issues (ACORN has been under recent attack by presidential candidate John McCain).

    Special guest today, Bob Halstead, who will talk about Pleasure Beach

    If you are bored with what’s on TV or the internet these days or just want to see something different…

    Watch a current events show on both local and national issues that is live TV and you can participate by calling in. This is a public access TV show with no commercials.

    WHAT: “Bridgeport Now”
    WHEN: Tuesdays at 8pm to 9pm
    WHERE: Channel 77
    SEEN IN: Fairfield, Bridgeport, Milford, Orange, Stratford, Woodbridge.

    The goal of the show is to highlight issues that concern us locally and nationally.

  10. Shays doesn’t even have a Rob Russo sign on his lawn. I guess Shays is a real Rogues Scholar. “No one could disagree with that!”

    “Shays It Ain’t So, Chris!”

  11. Nor does Shays have a McCain/Palin sign. I keep hoping I’ll run into him so I can ask him why that is. I’d also like to ask him why he feels Palin was a good choice and why she’s qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

  12. John have you thought to ask anyone in the democratic Party why Joe Biden was a good choice? BTW I had my sister-in-law looking for that diner Biden invited Palin to meet him at. She could not find it. I found out it’s been closed for 20 years. Putting Biden one step away from the presidency is also scary. With his habit of verbal slips he could get us in trouble with our allies by just talking. I am not sure I want a man who at one time disagreed with everything Obama talked about and who now is his robot.

  13. Wondering – If you really believe that Palin is as qualified or even more qualified than Biden, I’m afraid we’ll just have to agree to disagree. The chasm between us on this issue is just too great.

    Given my liberal politics, I would not have supported any of the republicans who ran for president this year. However, McCain was the one that I at least had some respect for. However, when he chose Palin he put his own ambition ahead of the good of the country and I’m sorry to say, I lost my respect for him. There were many more qualified republicans he could have chosen or he might have even gone with Lieberman. Instead, he made what he thought was a politically smart move and went with Palin. The irony is this choice is turning out to be a mistake and she has become a drag on the ticket.

  14. JfBR,
    Unfortunately I agree that it looks likely that Obama may well be the next president. If so, I hope he is the best president possible.

    However as I have previously commented, he has an extremely thin list of accomplishments and has shown no signs of political courage such as crossing the aisle on an important issue. (Specifically the Gang of 14 regarding the Supreme Court). McCain has such a history.

    Hopefully Obama will grow into a courageous political leader. Otherwise I become very depressed with the prospect of a Democratic Congress headed up by Pelosi and Reid and what they will do to the country.

    Somewhat farcical, would this not be just like the first six years of the Bush administration?

  15. #10- Mr. or Ms. Bpt. Kid: Well, it does not really matter to me one way or another about the so-called actual reason Mr. Roach didn’t want Celli, aka: BRAC to get the lease from the city. Besides you seem to know everything thats “really” going on, past or present? ** And on another subject; it sort of seems obvious that regardless of whatever faults the McCain/Palin ticket has, past or present, some bloggers on this forum fail to recognize them & still defend their desperate political actions. Which basically points to one major reason why they’re so anti-“Obama”/Biden & it’s “not” their policies either!***

  16. Chris Shays pays $24k in property taxes for his home in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport. He sold his home in Stamford to CBS2 News Anchor Dana Tyler for $850k in 1999. He bought his home from David Carson in 1999 for $490k. He put a beautiful addition on his 4300 sq ft. waterfront home and its present real market value is now close to 1.4 million dollars. His present assessed value as of 9/30 is $550k based on 70% of approximately $790k value since last reval.

    My condo is worth $190k for 1040 sq ft. and my assessment is $116k. My taxes are 5500 dollars a year. What’s he complaining about?

    I guess he is right that his economy is fundamentally strong. No one could disagree on that.

  17. Denis – As you point out, it appears that a majority of American voters feel Obama is well qualified to be president and I, of course, share that view. It also appears that people have lost faith in the party of laissez faire economics, deregulation, tax cuts for the rich and fear-based wedge politics.

    From my point of view this is all to the good. I believe that Obama with a solid Democratic majority in both Houses will start to turn this country around. As “wondering” will tell you, I’m a liberal and as such I see a role for government (and yes, sometimes even big government) in straightening out the mess the “shrink government and drown it in a bathtub” party has gotten us into. I think we will see this turnaround with an Obama presidency and a Democratic Congress.

  18. Dennis I am not ready to concede to Obama and his people. I will concede after the vote is counted. I just shudder at the thought of Pelosi and Reed being let loose. We have seen what the liberal Dems have done as it relates to the housing market. (Fannie May & Freddie Mac). When the middle class get their first Tax bill under Obama they are going to be saying What the F happened?
    Remember we were to get a tax cut under Bill Flinch. We were also going to get a tax cut during Clinton’s first term and what we got was the largest tax ever imposed on the middle class.The people or a large majority of people supporting Obama are looking for something for nothing.

  19. JfBR,
    As my late father often cited, “Moderation in everything, even my excesses.”

    If we use Bridgeport and the other major Connecticut cities as examples, it is very evident that one-party Democratic (with no malice towards the current administration) cities do not fare well. There is nobody to moderate the excesses.

    Yet that’s exactly what you believe in the best interests of the US in this election.

    Many believe that Bill Clinton was a great president. In my opinion that was due to three reasons:
    1. He was a very skilled communicator and a bright man
    2. He was in the right place (Thank you Ross Perot), at the right time as the economy started to boom.
    3. Most importantly and to my and Wondering’s point, he had a Republican Congress so he had to move to the center and compromise to get anything accomplished.

    I hope McCain is the winner. Otherwise the excesses from a very liberal President Obama and Sen. Reid and Congresswoman Pelosi are not going to be good for the US.

  20. Denis OMalley and Wondering,

    Add me to the list of people who believe that a lack of moderation in politics and government hurts the majority of the people. I also espouse the belief on why Bill Clinton was a successful President and why Bridgeport is such an abysmal failure.

    Obama has CT locked up so our votes don’t matter. We should all be more concerned about the excessess of abusive power here in b’port and concentrate on changing things here.

    I for one would even tolerate some moderate dems who don’t load the city up with relatives and friends. I’m still waiting for some of us independents to be considered for board and commissions, too. How about an ordinance that requires not just minority (party) representation on boards and commissions but a role for non-party affiliated, long term voters? Haven’t we all seen that both parties are corrupted by the power?

  21. I agree we need a balance in government to act as a moderating force and that balance should be between liberal Democrats and moderate Democrats at the federal and state level. The GOP has screwed things up too much and we need some real change. Here in Bpt party labels mean very little and minority representation might not be a bad idea. In fact, it’s something Caruso campaigned for in his last mayorial race.

  22. John: You blame the Republicans for just about everything but I assure you there is enough blame to go around. This latest financial problem can be laid right at the feet of the democrats going back to Clinton. The Dems felt that everyone is entitled to own a home and thus the out-of-control mortgages. Barney Frank and Chris Dodd and others plus a smattering of Republicans liberalized the rules for Fannie and Freddie and thus we are where we are today. Giving people 100%-plus mortgages hurt a lot of people that thought they were living the American dream and did not realize they were doomed to fail when they signed on the dotted line.
    John this liberal viewpoint if you can’t make it or are too lazy to make it we will help you make it is out of control. Now you are talking about putting people in office in Bpt. even if they don’t win but are Republicans. How many people would that put on the council? 30-40 just how many?
    What ever happened to if you work hard you will make it?


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