Feb. 21, 2008
By Ken Krayeske • 9:00 PM EST
Jim Himes, Democratic candidate for Congress from Connecticut's Fourth Congressional District, talks with Congressman John Larson Thursday night at the Arch Street Tavern in Hartford.
When a candidate for Congress talks at a fundraiser and says his opponent has misplaced priorities, it sounds like a pretty pedestrian critique.
Yet when Jim Himes, the Democratic candidate for Connecticut's Fourth Congressional District seat, leveled it against his opponent, incumbent Republican Chris Shays for Shays' conduct in recent baseball hearings, it hit home.
Shays, who sits on the House Committee for Oversight and Government Reform (which is incidentally misspelled on Shays' website), has been an asinine attack dog during the recent hearings on steroid use in Major League Baseball.
Himes wants to know why Shays was so hard on Brian McNamee, the infamous drug-dealing former trainer of ace pitcher Roger Clemens, but let other people, like, say, Erik Prinze, the CEO of Blackwater USA, walk through the Oversight hearings untouched.
"Shays was silent with Lurita Doan, Donald Rumsfeld and Erik Prinze," Himes said. "Then he makes a stand with McNamee. His priorities are messed up. It's what you focus on."
Himes and I scratched the surface about how, if he were in Shays seat, he would have grilled Prinze, and how Shays wasted his opportunities to hold Republican operatives like Doan and warmongers like Rumsfeld accountable.
But Himes had to schmooze with the 50 or so donors and Young Democrats at the fundraiser Congressman John Larson was throwing for him at Hartford's Arch Street Tavern Thursday night.
"I'm okay with the notion of hiring contractors to do jobs they can do better than anyone else," Himes said. "But what makes the government special is that it has a monopoly on force. We should never allow the outsourcing of force."
Just as I was about to ask a follow-up about Blackwater's lack of transparency and how Congress could deal with it, former blogger Maura Keaney, the campaign manager for Himes, whisked Himes away to meet someone else. Keaney promised that Himes and I could have an in-depth discussion in the future, and I plan on taking her up on it.
And after Thursday night, I left thinking that the sharp-dressed Himes with his million-dollar grin has a real chance to take out Shays. So does Congressman Larson.
"He is an outstanding candidate," Larson said, noting Himes' Harvard pedigree and stint as a Rhodes' Scholar at Oxford. "He has spent time in the community and he will be part of this change election."
Larson, a big supporter of Barack Obama, talked about the potential for change this election cycle, lead by Obama, but also helped by Republicans who see the writing on the wall and are dropping out or not running for re-election.
Himes has a chance to give Democrats a clean sweep in New England, according to State Representative Dave McCluskey, a Democrat of West Hartford. Currently, Shays is the only Republican in the House from New England.
"I'd like to have the New England representation in the House Republican-free," McCluskey said. "Shays gets shriller and wierder. It is time for him to go voluntarily. And if not, Himes should be the next Congressman."
McCluskey was one of several elected officials to turn out for Himes. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Congressman Joe Courtney stopped by, along with State Representatives Kelvin Roldan and Art Feltman.