(Cross-posted from HimesForCongress.com)
But this election comes against the backdrop of an economic crisis and a presidential election. Not only is the state considered to be safely in Senator Barack Obama's column, but state polls also show the Democratic presidential candidate running strong in Mr. Shays's district. That trend, coupled with what the secretary of state's office says is a record number of voters registered in Democratic-leaning Bridgeport this election, may present the biggest challenge ever to Mr. Shays, who has been in office for 21 years.
In the same article, Jim takes Chris Shays to task for having missed the mark when it comes to the financial crisis:
He has reminded voters that in September, Mr. Shays said that the fundamentals of the economy were sound, and he has questioned why, with Mr. Shays's position as a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, on which he has served since 2001, he has failed to take measures to prevent the banking meltdowns....
"He was dead wrong on Iraq and has supported the administration's disastrous economic policies," Mr. Himes said during a recent interview at his campaign headquarters in Norwalk....
Mr. Himes said Mr. Shays's policy of supporting deregulation left the economy vulnerable to abusive and reckless actions by banks. Having worked as an investment banker, Mr. Himes said he knew what needed to be done to better regulate the financial industry.
Mr. Shays bristles at his opponent's criticism, saying he was one of the first to voice concerns about lack of oversight of the mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, supporting legislation in 2003 to require the two companies to comply with the same reporting requirements as publicly traded companies despite fierce opposition and pressure from his party and lobbyists. In 2006, he said, he raised concerns about the increased commercial operations of banks in a letter to the comptroller of the currency. But Mr. Himes retorts: "While the basement was full of dynamite, Chris Shays was checking on the smoke in the attic."
As if to prove Jim's point, in an editorial board interview with the Westport News published yesterday, Chris Shays continues to stand by his absurd assertion that the economy is "fundamentally strong", engaging in some McCain-like parsing of his out-of-touch mantra:
"The good news is that there's no hope of getting out of this recession unless the fundamentals of our economy are strong, and they are. We have a strong industrial base, a strong agricultural base; we have the best educated and trained work force in the world. We have the best technology and we have the most innovative society. These are fundamentals that are going to get us out of this mess."
Shays also defends the Bush tax cuts. Here was Jim's answer to the same question posed to him about the economy:
"Frankly, a big reason that I decided to run for Congress was that I sensed our economic policy was driving us in the wrong direction We got past the bailout plan, but it doesn't seem to have calmed the market, and I'm a little unclear if it will achieve what it was designed to do. We are where we are today because of a massive failure of oversight and regulation in an immensely risky industry. I think the bill should have had a commitment the very next day to reconstruct oversight structure. There's very little question we're headed into a recession. I also think we're going to have to do another stimulus plan, but something that's stimulative around infrastructure."
Compare these two answers, and it's pretty clear which candidate this race is in touch with voters, and which one has the energy, the ideas, and the understanding to get our economy back on track.