Himes Beats Shays With Help of Conn.'s Urban Vote

Obama's coattails long enough to unseat New England's last Republican

U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays was a master at surviving close elections in a diverse Connecticut district that includes some of America's richest towns and deep pockets of poverty.

But he was no match for the long coattails of Barack Obama in Tuesday's election, as the rustier part of Connecticut's Gold Coast spoke loudly for his challenger, Democrat Jim Himes.

Shays was trounced in Bridgeport, Connecticut's largest city, as well as Stamford and Norwalk, as he lost his 11th bid for re-election. When he leaves office in January, there will be no New England Republicans in the House of Representatives.

"It's a phenomenon that he was up against," said Gary Rose, politics professor at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. "In many ways he was really running against the Obama mystique than he was running against Himes."

Shays said he had no regrets in his battle against Himes, a former Goldman Sachs vice president who now runs an affordable housing organization.

"If you think we lost this race because we didn't go negative, you're just wrong," Shays said Tuesday. "We lost this race because we did our very best but we had this tsunami that was on its way."

Tuesday's election was the third highly competitive race in a row for Shays. Former Westport First Selectman Diane Farrell made the war in Iraq the focus of her 2004 and 2006 campaigns, which Shays narrowly won with 52 percent of the vote in 2004 and 51 percent in 2006.

But this time Shays won only about 20 percent of the vote in Bridgeport, where he lives. In 2006 and the last presidential election in 2004, he got about 30 percent.

Shays also lost by wider margins in Stamford and Norwalk than he did in earlier elections.

While some supporters said Shays should have defended his record more from attacks, Rose said Shays ran a good campaign and made no major gaffes. Shays had to contend with anger toward President Bush and the economic crisis, while Himes raised a lot of money and had strong backing from national Democrats, Rose said.

Despite the woes of Republicans in New England, Shays could go on to higher office as a senator or governor, Rose predicted.

"I do think he's capable of winning a statewide election," Rose said. "He is such a moderate Republican."

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