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Monday, August 28, 2006

Congressional races gaining national attention

This should show you just how important the Connecticut Congressional races are to both political parties.
Overshadowed by a nationally watched U.S. Senate contest, several Connecticut congressional races are starting to draw big names and attention of their own.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was in Connecticut Wednesday and Thursday to campaign for Diane Farrell, who is challenging Republican Rep. Christopher Shays in the 4th District, and Chris Murphy, who is challenging Republican Rep. Nancy Johnson in the 5th District.

Campaigning with Murphy at an event in Waterbury on Thursday, Pelosi called Murphy, Farrell and 2nd District challenger Joe Courtney a "high priority" for national Democrats.

"The three House seats in Connecticut are very important to taking back the Congress for the American people," she said.

Democrats can take control of the House by winning 15 seats on Election Day.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which raises money for congressional candidates, has all three of the races on its "targeted" list, meaning they're getting visits and fundraising help from big-name Democrats, said spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Some Democrats have expressed concern that House challengers could be hurt by the fierce U.S. Senate fight between primary winner Ned Lamont and U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, who is running as an independent. But Psaki said she isn't concerned that the Senate race will overshadow the House races.

"These are three of our top fundraisers," she said of the candidates, adding that there are thousands of new Democrats in Connecticut because of the primary and that Lamont and Lieberman had endorsed all three. "All of those things are helping these candidates."

On the Republican side, Republican National Congressional Committee spokesman Ed Patru said all three are expected to be "vigorous" races.

"The environment is certainly tougher than it has been in past years for a number of reasons. There's anxiety among voters and the president's numbers aren't as high as some would like them to be," Patru said. "But ultimately, all three of these races are going to be local races. No voter in Connecticut will be voting for a Democratic or Republican Congress nor will they be voting on the president. They'll be making a choice between two candidates and two contrasting messages."

Pelosi stopped at a Farrell fundraiser in Stamford Wednesday night, and Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the DCCC, stumped for her there Thursday.

In the 4th District, which includes southwestern Connecticut, Pelosi focused on six goals for the Democrats if they take back the House, including a phased redeployment of troops in Iraq, making college tuition tax deductible and making the country more energy independent. Emanuel focused on Iraq.

In the 5th, which includes central and western Connecticut and is home to many elderly residents, Pelosi and Murphy talked about reforming the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Democrats aren't the only ones bringing in big names.

Shays plans to bring in former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts, according to Shays campaign manager Michael Sohn. Ken Hiscoe, Republican Rep. Nancy Johnson's campaign manager, says McCain also plans to stump for Johnson next month.

In the 2nd District, in eastern Connecticut, incumbent Republican Rob Simmons has scheduled a Sept. 6 fundraiser with former President George H.W. Bush, whom he knows from his time in the CIA.