Shays returning to state to run for U.S. Senate
Former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-4, is looking to disprove the adage, "You can't go home again."
Shays, on sabbatical from Connecticut's political scene since his 2008 election loss, said Monday that he will enter the race to succeed U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who is retiring when his term expires in 2012.
The former congressman, unseated in 2008 by Democrat Jim Himes, sold his Bridgeport home shortly after the election and moved to Maryland. He was reinstated Friday as a voter in Bridgeport, where he and his wife, Betsi, bought a condominium last year when he was considering a run for governor.
"Betsi and I are excited to be back in Connecticut," Shays said. "These are all the steps that I am taking so that I can have the opportunity to run for Senate. I hope to be on the ballot next November."
Shays, 65, is expected to face former wrestling executive Linda McMahon, who spent $50 million on an unsuccessful Senate bid in 2010, in next year's Republican primary.
State GOP Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. readily acknowledged that Shays and McMahon appear to be on a collision course.
"I'm pleased that we will have a strong field of candidates vying for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, including Congressman Shays and businesswoman Linda McMahon," Labriola said.
Labriola characterized Shays as a great Republican with a distinguished record of public service.
"He's a fiscal conservative and strong on national defense," Labriola said. "As state party chairman, I'm happy to have him in the race."
A fixture in the House of Representatives from 1987 to 2008, Shays is a co-chairman of a special commission created by Congress to look into military contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The commission is scheduled to release its final report at the end of August and dissolve in September, leaving Shays with the ability to become a full-time candidate for the Senate seat. Shays said Monday he'll file papers to enter the race Oct. 3.
In a statement Monday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee swiftly sought to paint Shays as a carpetbagger.
"After voters in Connecticut rejected Chris Shays, Chris Shays rejected the voters of Connecticut, deciding to make his home in Maryland, where he could easily cash in on his time in Congress," Matt Canter of the DSSC said. "It's doubtful that Chris Shays has learned much, if anything, about Connecticut's best interests after living in Maryland for the past few years. He's still a rubber stamp for Republican policies that would hurt our economy and squeeze middle class families."
Election officials in Bridgeport confirmed that Shays and his wife appeared at the registrars of voters' office at 4 p.m. Friday to be reinstated to the city's voter rolls.
"They're fully registered voters," said Cisco Borres, the city's deputy Republican registrar. "All their rights as voters have been restored. They're good to go."
Shays lost his seat of 21 years in 2008 to Himes, who is serving his second term. During Shays' final term he was the lone New England Republican in the House.
Even though Shays and his wife moved to and registered to vote in St. Michaels, Md., after the loss, Borres said they were listed as inactive voters in Bridgeport.
"He was never fully removed," Borres said.
Shays, who was born and raised in Connecticut, said he once again holds a Connecticut driver's license.
"We're in the process of moving our legal address back into Connecticut," said Shays, who plans to keep his home in Maryland.
Shays declined to respond further to criticism from the DSCC.
A July poll by Frank Luntz showed Shays in a statistical dead-heat with U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5, in a hypothetical matchup for Senate. The survey of 500 registered Connecticut voters had Murphy, who entered the race in January after Lieberman announced his retirement, leading Shays 42 to 40 percent.
The same poll had Murphy leading McMahon, the former chief executive of the Stamford-based wrestling powerhouse WWE, 52 to 36 percent. McMahon lost to longtime Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in 2010.
McMahon is on the cusp of jumping into the race, which is also drawing interest from former Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele and David Walker, a former U.S. comptroller general who coincidentally bought Shays' former home in Bridgeport.
The same poll showed Shays leading former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, a Democrat, 48 to 37 percent.
In addition to Murphy and Bysiewicz, the Democratic field includes state Rep. William Tong, of Stamford, and Sylvester Salcedo, an Orange resident who practices law in Bridgeport.
Brian K. Hill, a Hartford lawyer and former Judge Advocate General's Corps officer who lives in Windsor, is also running for Senate as a Republican. He was an independent write-in candidate in 2010.