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Monday, October 23, 2006

The Hartford Courant goes all blue

Nice move from the Courant. I'll be interested to see if their feelings extends to the senate race...
In 1994, voters rightly rebelled against unresponsive, entrenched Democratic majorities in the U.S. House and Senate and put Republicans in charge. Similar discontent inhabits the land today.

The nation is mired in an unpopular war. Congress exercises no spending restraint. Lobbyist influence is at high tide.

Little has been done to protect the long-term financial stability of Social Security and Medicare or to promote energy independence. There has been insufficient oversight of the Republican-controlled executive branch. Scandal taints Congress, with members being sent to prison, forced to resign or under indictment or investigation.

It's time for a change to Democratic control to see if they can do any better. Divided government has worked well in the past. Three Republican-held seats in Connecticut are key to whether there will be change or more of the same. Voters must ask themselves if these GOP incumbents can be part of the solution or are part of the problem. Here are The Courant's recommendations in the U.S. House races:



During four terms in the state's General Assembly, Democrat Joe Courtney, 53, a lawyer from Vernon, distinguished himself as a hard-working, effective and respected lawmaker and leader on health care reforms. That ethic, combined with Mr. Courtney's compassion and integrity, makes him a better candidate than the three-term incumbent, Republican Rob Simmons, in a district that covers half the state.

Mr. Simmons, 63, of Stonington, deserves partial credit for working with Sens. Christopher J. Dodd and Joseph I. Lieberman and state and local officials to remove the New London submarine base from the federal list of base closures. Yet his evasiveness and his voting record are troubling.

Four years ago, Mr. Simmons, an Army veteran and 10-year CIA veteran, expressed strong misgivings about going to war in Iraq and was unconvinced the country's nuclear weapons capability posed "a clear and present danger." Ten days later, he voted to authorize the military strike. Mr. Simmons still touts his "qualified" stance on Iraq, yet in June he voted for a resolution supporting the Bush administration's policies. Afterward, his campaign issued a statement saying the resolution "fails to fully address a key question that most Americans are asking: 'When are the troops coming home?'." But Mr. Simmons also says he doesn't support a deadline.

Last month, Mr. Simmons supported legislation on the treatment of detainees in the war on terror, saying the bill adequately clarifies and protects their rights. It doesn't. Mr. Simmons also says he's against privatizing Social Security, but his varying statements call his commitment into question.

This year, Mr. Simmons voted for a consumer-unfriendly giveaway to the food industry that would have let the federal government override state regulations on food labeling. He also co-sponsored legislation giving the gun industry immunity from civil lawsuits.

Mr. Courtney's ethic of hard work, compassion and integrity -- and his leadership on health care -- make him the best choice.



Democrat Diane Farrell came within 4 percentage points of defeating incumbent Chris Shays in the Fairfield County district in 2004. She's The Courant's choice this year.

Ms. Farrell, 51, is a socially progressive, fiscally moderate former two-term first selectwoman of Westport -- no small feat in a Republican-dominated town. She knows how to build bipartisan coalitions to get things done.

Schooled and steeled by two grinding campaigns for the House, this articulate, personable, bright woman is knowledgeable about federal issues and would be an effective change agent to clean up Congress.

Opposing Mr. Shays' election to an 11th term is not easy for us to do. The Courant has long admired Mr. Shays for his independent streak, his good work on behalf of the environment and his passion for such causes as campaign finance reform and government ethics.

But the 61-year-old moderate from Bridgeport has been marginalized by his own party and has become increasingly ineffective. In 2002, he won a great victory in banning soft money from campaigns, and yet there is more special-interest money than ever influencing federal elections. He has long been a budget hawk, yet the Congress controlled by his party rolls up record budget deficits without flinching. Borrow and spend is its byword.

Worse, Mr. Shays has been one of the staunchest supporters of President Bush's aimless and costly Iraqi war policy. Despite recently calling for a timetable for ratcheting down U.S. involvement and advocating the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his entire team, Mr. Shays foresees ongoing U.S. military activity in Iraq for a number of years. He has also made inexplicable statements of late, such as saying that the extreme sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. guards at the Abu Ghraib prison "was not torture."


Chris Murphy, 33, a Democrat from Cheshire, is the strongest challenger that Rep. Nancy Johnson has faced in her 12-term career in the House.

Mrs. Johnson, 71, a Republican from New Britain, is an authority on health care. As chairman of the Ways and Means health subcommittee, she helped author the Medicare Part D prescription drug bill, which has proved a success.

Therein lies her problem. Mrs. Johnson has long struggled with a tendency to confuse and complicate. Democrats were able to frame her prescription drug bill as a muddle of a law too complex to work because she failed to present it clearly and coherently. The Democrats won the public relations battle, though the law is in fact cutting drug costs.

Mr. Murphy has a command of health care policy that rivals Mrs. Johnson's because of his service as the Senate chairman of the state legislature's Public Health Committee. He championed a workplace smoking ban and stem cell research. A strong environmentalist, he introduced legislation requiring that cars sold in Connecticut meet tougher emissions standards. Mrs. Johnson's record on the environment is mixed: Though she opposed oil drilling in the Arctic refuge, she supported an energy bill that provided giveaways to oil companies and lacked tougher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles.

Mr. Murphy is a fluent, even inspiring speaker. He speaks eloquently, for example, of the state's struggle to deal with $40 billion in federal cuts in funding for the poor, elderly and students that Mrs. Johnson voted for in the Deficit Reduction Act. To her credit, Mrs. Johnson defied her party in supporting a ban on inhumane treatment of detainees and allowing the importation of drugs from Canada. And she voted to repeal restrictions on federal funding of stem cell research.

But she has failed to serve as a check on her party's worst instincts as it balloons the federal deficit, weakens House ethics rules, blindly backs U.S. occupation of Iraq and allows the president unprecedented executive powers. Mr. Murphy would provide just such a check.
Throw the buims out, vote for change.