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Urban vote propels Himes to victory

Updated 1:23 am, Wednesday, November 7, 2012

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  • Nola Peressutti, 5, tries her hand at politics as she plays at the podium at the Norwalk Inn in Norwalk, Conn., where supporters of Steve Obsitnik, candidate for U.S. Congress, wait for results on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. Photo: Lindsay Niegelberg / Stamford Advocate
    Nola Peressutti, 5, tries her hand at politics as she plays at the podium at the Norwalk Inn in Norwalk, Conn., where supporters of Steve Obsitnik, candidate for U.S. Congress, wait for results on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. Photo: Lindsay Niegelberg

 

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Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Himes won a third term in Congress Tuesday night, easily defeating newcomer Republican Steve Obsitnik after a sometimes contentious campaign that turned into a referendum on Obamacare and the role of federal stimulus funding.

Himes received a concessionary phone call from Obsitnik just before 10 p.m. in a ninth-floor suite in the Bridgeport Holiday Inn, surrounded by his family and close friends. Partial election returns had Himes with a 61-39 percent lead.

Himes then took the elevator downstairs and told about 200 supporters that being a congressman is "the best job a guy could ask for" and he hopes to work toward bipartisan solutions in the next Congress.

Himes said the big victory was testament to his effectiveness in Washington, but it was also tempered by last week's Superstorm Sandy, where neighbors helped each other to overcome nature's wrath.

"You saw a cord extended from one generator to a neighbor, so that neighbor could have electricity," Himes said. "You had people going into homes and saying, `Are you OK?' checking in with our senior citizens, saying, `Can I do something for you?' This is the idea in the greatest nation on the planet, where we all stand for individual liberty and freedom but we all recognize we are at our best, we are at our blessed, when we recognize that we have a duty toward each other."

Speaking to supporters at about 10:15, Obsitnik said that if he knew campaigning was so much fun, he might have sought office years earlier. But a year ago, the U.S. Navy veteran realized it was time to act.

"After serving nine years in the military and 16 years as a job creator, we know we need more job creators in this country to create the environment where entrepreneurs and small businesses can survive again," Obsitnik said. "Bipartisanship has to happen. The partisanship has to stop. We have to realize it's time for our leaders to step forward to solve these problems."

Himes, 46, of Greenwich, used his incumbency to raise $1.3 million more than Obsitnik, 45, of Westport.

In a fashion similar to his 2008 victory over Christopher Shays, the former longtime Republican congressman, Himes used large victory margins in the core cities of Bridgeport, Norwalk and Stamford to offset Obsitnik's Republican support in the suburbs. He had a 54-to-46 percent lead, with about one-quarter of the votes counted late Tuesday night.

The Himes-Obsitnik race became a microcosm of the national political debate, with the Democrat defending the use of federal stimulus money, the Affordable Care Act and the bailout of the auto industry. Obsitnik opposed the stimulus funding, claiming that it did little to create jobs, and said that the ACA needed a massive revamping.

While Obsitnik tried to pin Himes down as a lockstep Democrat, the incumbent stressed that he differed on major legislation including crucial budgetary issues that won him awards for his bipartisanship.

"I think this election was mainly about my constituents trusting me," Himes said in an interview before the polls closed. "I have now had four years representing them and they know that I listen to them. They know that I think about the issues. They know that I'll act independently and I think that that made this election a little easier than the last couple of go-rounds."

Himes spent the day shuttling from Norwalk, back home to Greenwich to vote and campaign, then east to Fairfield Democratic headquarters and polling places there and in Bridgeport before taking election returns in the Chairman's Suite at the Holiday Inn.

Obsitnik started the morning at the Darien train station, then voted in the Saugatuck section of Westport, visited two polling places in Norwalk, then greeted voters in Weston, Wilton and Fairfield.

"I feel like it's going very well," Obsitnik said outside the Lunch Box restaurant in Weston. Still, in a possible salute to the inevitable, the former U.S. Navy officer said he was looking forward to becoming "a civilian again" on Wednesday.

kdixon@ctpost.com; 860-549-4670; twitter.com/KenDixonCT; facebook.com/kendixonct.hearst; blog.ctnews.com/dixon