A few weeks after having dinner with local party chairs and less than a week after being introduced to the Democratic Congressional caucus in DC, former New York Rangers goalie Mike Richter has made calls to key players in the the district today to say he has decided not to challenge Chris Shays.
While I'm sad to have lost the opportunity to play with hockey/politics metaphors for the next 18 months, the good news is that a great local candidate has emerged: Jim Himes, Director of Enterprise New York, a non-profit provider of affordable housing. A fluent Spanish speaker who lived in Peru and Columbia for 10 years, Himes is a Rhodes Scholar who studied Latin American policy at Oxford University. Himes is the Chair of the Democratic Town Committee in Greenwich and knows what it is going to take to beat Chris Shays here in CT-04. More below the jump.
Jim Himes has an outstanding community service record here in the 4th, where he and his wife Mary have lived since 1998 in a modest but charming home on the banks of the Mianus River in Cos Cob. (See an evocative description of Jim and Mary's home from Greenpeas.) Himes has two young daughters, one in pre-K and the other in public school. He has served as the Commisioner of the Greenwich Housing Authority and on the Board of Estimate and Taxation in Greenwich. Himes became Chairman of the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee in 2002, and under his leadership the DTC has built a very strong organization and has run aggressive, well-organized campaigns against previously uncontested Republicans.
Himes has also served as the Chair of the Board of Aspira Connecticut in Bridgeport, an organization that runs after-school programs for Latino youth in Bridgeport.
Jim Himes grew up in Latin America, living in Peru and Columbia for over 10 years while his father did non-profit work for the Ford Foundation and UNICEF. A fluent Spanish speaker, Himes was Phi Beta Kappa at Harvard and received an M.Phil. in Latin American studies from Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. Himes is an expert in Latin American capital markets and was a Vice President at Goldman Sachs, were he worked in investment banking for over a decade before returning to his roots in non-profit public service.
Jim is now the director of Enterprise New York, New York's "leading nonprofit provider of affordable housing for low-income residents". The Enterprise Foundation builds more than 3,000 units of affordable housing per year. Himes has experience in projects providing financial incentives for "green building" (such as this innovative project in Harlem) and development of technology-rich community centers such as the Heiskell Enterprise Center in the Bronx.
Himes definitely has the resume for service in Congress, with expertise in foreign policy, economics, banking, and domestic issues such as affordable housing. Shays fought off two very tough challenges from Diane Farrell, however - could Jim Himes be stronger than Farrell and finally take Democrats over the finish line?
Himes can raise the money that it takes to compete, and with a great campaign organization in place, Himes should be able to maintain the gains that Farrell fought for in the more affluent areas of Wilton, Ridgefield, Darien, Westport, and the like. They key to winning in the 4th is holding down Shays' performance in these areas while cranking Democratic turnout in Stamford, Norwalk, and Bridgeport. And that's where Jim's fluency in Spanish and commitment to aggressive grassroots organizing would pay off.
Jim is in the midst of numerous discussions with party leaders, Democratic activists, and community leaders thoughout the district, including a few meetings with bloggers - see impressions from local Connecticut bloggers thomashooker, Jon, Melissa, and Bob. Jim has a solid understanding of the potential for netroots outreach to complement on-the-ground grassroots organizing. What makes me most enthusiastic about Jim, though, is his sincerity and passion for public service and the common good.
While Jim Himes has not yet officially declared his candidacy, he is certainly building support around the district from people like me who fervently hope that he decides to run.
(Cross-posted, slightly edited, at My Left Nutmeg.}