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The Advocate: “Farrell vs. Shays: Light as Well as Heat?”

Today’s The Advocate of Stamford/Norwalk, in a lead editorial, said if all the money being raised in the much-watched 4th Congressional District this year means a more thorough and substantive debate about issues facing the district and the country, “then we say: Bring it on.”

The text of the editorial:

The 4th Congressional District race continues to remind us just how ordinary recent elections in lower Fairfield County have been. If discussion of the issues is as substantive as the politics in this election, then this race could set a high standard for local democracy.

Fund raising is off to a brisk start, not only for incumbent Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Bridgeport, but also for his Democratic challenger, First Selectwoman Diane Farrell of Westport. And it’s only July.

Mr. Shays has raised slightly more than $1 million; Ms. Farrell, $725,000. For Mr. Shays, that’s more than the $919,160 that he spent in his last re-election campaign two years ago.

As important, Ms. Farrell already has significantly out-raised Mr. Shays’ opponent in that election. Stephanie Sanchez spent $110,699 in the 2002 election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group that tracks political fund raising and spending. Lack of funding was one of the factors noted in Ms. Sanchez’ defeat.

This year, who is giving, or may give, is as impressive as the sums that have been raised.

Emily’s List, the women’s political action committee that raised nearly $10 million in contributions last year, has endorsed Ms. Farrell. Mr. Shays’ spokesman said the designation was routine. It’s not. Emily’s List is a well-recognized, influential organization that knows how to pick its battles. The group generally spends money where it thinks it will do the most good.

Campaign committees of both the Republican and Democratic parties have identified this race as one to watch. The chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee has asked 10 political action committees to support Mr. Shays and candidates in 38 other “crucial” races this year. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has yet to decide whether to fund Ms. Farrell’s campaign.

Money alone may not win an election, although it’s almost impossible to win a race without it. That is one reason why we expect spending in this race to be high.

Shays-Farrell could be one of the hardest-fought congressional races in the country this year. Mr. Shays has many strengths. He has developed a national following for his maverick views on campaign finance, domestic terrorism and his highly publicized “town meeting” with constituents on the Clinton impeachment, which he said prompted him to vote against unseating the controversial president. He also has a reputation for delivering good service to constituents who approach him about issues from the local post office to federal funding for housing.

But while many in this area admire Mr. Shays’ studied independence, others are troubled by it. Many are irked by his continued support for controversial Bush initiatives such as the war in Iraq. Meanwhile, some conservatives think he is too liberal on environmental, civil rights and women’s issues. With sufficient funding and sound positions, Ms. Farrell may be able to show voters that she is a credible alternative. Voters need to hear more about her stand on a variety of issues, including how she differs from Mr. Shays.

A well-funded campaign isn’t always good. It can buy too many candidate commercials on radio or television in late October, for example. But if all of this money means a more thorough and substantive debate about issues facing the 4th Congressional District and the country, then we say: Bring it on.

One thought on “The Advocate: “Farrell vs. Shays: Light as Well as Heat?”

  1. The Congressional Race this year is more than just Shays v. Farrell. It is also a greater question of whether the people of Fairfield County want another Republican controlled Congress.

    For all his avowed independence, it is a sad reality that Chris Shays can be counted on to vote the GOP line in a pinch. (They don’t call Tom DeLay “The Hammer” for nothing.)

    I say vote for Farrell. If Shays were such a great guy, he could always switch parties. Or he could have formed a coalition of 20-30 more moderate Republicans to break with the Hard Right on important issues.

    If this year you vote for Farrell, at the least you will encourage Shays to part with the likes of DeLay and his right-wing agenda. The “worst” thing that might happen in voting Farrell, would be to have her as our next Congressperson, only those of us familiar, know she would be a GREAT representative.

    In 17 years, Shays has not brought home the transportation dollars we need to solve our traffic woes. Let’s give Diane a chance.

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