Ten Minutes with Chris Shays
Served as U.S. representative for more than twenty years
By Geoffrey Morris
Chris Shays served as U.S. representative from the fourth district for more than twenty years until he was defeated in 2008 by the current incumbent Jim Himes. A longtime resident of Bridgeport (St. Mary’s by the Sea), Shays is now running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Joe Lieberman. We talked with him in his campaign office, the former home of William Samuel Johnson, the first U.S. senator from Connecticut.
You live in Bridgeport but spend a lot of time in Fairfield.
Yes. My dry cleaner is in Fairfield. My mechanic. My bank is there, People’s Bank. Bridgeport is a challenged city—the highest taxes in the country. My taxes went from $7,000 to $32,000. So we had to sell our house to move to a condominium. We still love it.
Where have you been since 2009?
Co-chairing the Commission on Wartime Contracting. Contractors are half of our effort in Iraq and Afghanistan. So we felt we needed to see where the money was going.
Tell me what you learned.
We determined that there was about $60 billion in waste. That’s out of $205 billion paid to contractors. It is a good thing to have learned. We made recommendations on how to correct it. That’s a lot of money.
Why are you running?
I never thought I would. But being in Washington and seeing how my former colleagues are failing us, made me run. Seeing Americans fear for the country—that life won’t be better for their kids—startled me. I don’t buy that at all. Our leaders have put their agendas and party in front of doing what is right. We don’t have to tolerate people out of work.
We have not had a Republican senator in Connecticut since Lowell Weicker was last elected in 1982. Is the state ready for one?
It is past due. We have five congressman and two senators in the state, and they are all Democrats. We need balance, and people want it. People want a Republican who is not partisan. We are not Alabama Republicans. Connecticut would not elect Newt Gingrich to the Senate, that’s for sure.
What do you think of Joe Lieberman?
I like Joe. Joe and I have been friends for a long time. I loved his mom, and his mom loved me. She always voted for me. You know, when Joe was attorney general he got me out of jail.
What role does President Obama play in this election?
He won’t have the coattails in Connecticut that he had last time. And people don’t want to give him a Democratic house.
There’s a great divide between parties ...
The gridlock is dangerous. The Senate hasn’t passed a budget bill in more than 1,000 days. That is not acceptable. With no budget, there is no plan.
Is your wife Betsi involved in your campaign?
Yes, Betsi it totally committed and is not doing anything else. We feel so fortunate to have this opportunity.