Connecticut's 4th congressional district election, 2008

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The 2008 Connecticut 4th Congressional District Election was held on November 7 to elect the representative from the 4th District of Connecticut, which includes 17 towns in southwest Connecticut. Representatives are elected for two-year terms; the elected representative will serve in the 111th United States Congress from January 3, 2009 until January 3, 2011. The candidates were Christopher Shays, Republican, incumbent, member of the United States House of Representatives since 1987; Jim Himes, Democrat, an affordable housing executive, businessman, community leader. Ultimately Himes narrowly defeated Shays by 12,338 votes. It was the first time in history that New England's House representation was entirely Democratic.

Background[edit]

Shays[edit]

Main article: Christopher Shays

Shays grew up in Darien, Connecticut, attended Principia College in Elsah, Illinois, and received an MBA and MPA from New York University. He was a member of the Connecticut state house of representatives from 1975–1987, when he was elected to fill the vacancy caused by the death of United States Representative Stewart McKinney.[1] He had been a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives since 1987. In his tenth term in the 109th Congress, Shays served as Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform. He was Chairperson of the Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations,[2] and a member of the Financial Services and Homeland Security Committees.

Himes[edit]

Main article: Jim Himes

Himes was born in Lima, Peru in 1966, and spent the first decade of his life in Latin America (Peru and Colombia). At the age of 10, he, his mother, and his two sisters returned to the United States, where Himes attended and graduated from Hopewell Valley Central High School in Pennington, New Jersey.

From 1984 to 1988, Himes attended Harvard University. He won a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford University where he continued his studies of Latin America.

Himes currently lives in the Cos Cob section of Greenwich with his wife, Mary, and their two daughters. He is fluent in Spanish.[4]

Endorsements[edit]

Shays[edit]

Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg and Esquire

Himes[edit]

He received endorsements from the Fairfield Mirror,[3] Working Families Party,[4] DAPAC,[5] Students for a New American Politics PAC,[6] and Blue America PAC.[7]

2008 U.S. Representative campaign[edit]

Himes debates Shays at Fairfield University.

On April 19, 2007, Jim Himes officially announced his candidacy for the United States House of Representatives in Connecticut's 4th congressional district.[8]

He received endorsements from the Fairfield Mirror,[3] Working Families Party,[9] DAPAC,[10] Students for a New American Politics PAC,[6] and Blue America PAC.[11] As of the end of 2007, his campaign reportedly had the most cash on hand of any House challenger running against an incumbent nationwide.[12] On May 4, 2008 Himes was endorsed by Diane Farrell, the 2004 and 2006 Democratic challenger to Christopher Shays.[13]

On March 12, 2008, Himes was named to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "Red-to-Blue" program of targeted House challengers.[14]

On the summer of 2008 the Himes campaign had an unexpected challenger. Lisa "Lee" Whitnum, an unknown Democrat from Greenwich, Connecticut, billed herself as the "average American woman." On June 19, Whitnum gained enough signatures to force a primary with Himes. It was the first primary in the Connecticut's 4th congressional district since 1987. Political pundits and observers had written Lee Whitnum off because she did not have any organization or cash like Jim Himes. During the primary campaign, Whitnum called Jim Himes a "cardboard" candidate who was well-privileged. Himes also had the Democratic Party behind him and key endorsements early from people like Stamford, Connecticut mayor Dan Malloy, who expressed anger to Whitnum's views and comments on immigration and other issues. Himes said on August 11 a day before the primary “We’re taking this very seriously even though Whitnum has taken positions which can charitably be described as out of the mainstream.” The primary picked up some local media attention but on Election Day on August 12, 2008 a very low turnout of 4th district democrats showed up at the polls. Himes easily defeated Whitnum with about 90% of the vote. After the easy primary for the Himes camp, Jim Himes moved swiftly to build his general election campaign and focused on Christopher Shays.

The General Election between Jim Himes and Christopher Shays was followed by the national news media and it was a called a tossup because of the unpopularity of George W. Bush in the urban New England district. Shays had very high name recognition and he had a longtime reputation as a moderate nationwide and in Fairfield County which put him ahead early in the race while Himes attempted to garner attention. Despite this polls in late August showed it a dead heat or Shays ahead.

Himes was not well known at the beginning of the race, being a new face, unlike Shays who people were accustomed and knew well. As the summer progressed Shays started to pull away from Himes in the polls, however as Himes campaign kicked off this trend reversed. Himes painted Shays as George Bush and sent out mailers that placed them together in pictures. Unlike the 2006 campaign where war was the primary issue, this time it was the economy. It started immediately gained traction and Jim Himes made a campaign catch phrase out of it, quoting Shays saying "Our economy is fundamentally strong no one can disagree with that."[15] Himes also linked himself with Barack Obama who was popular in the district, and his coattails in the district were very strong; he ended up winning it 60-40.[1] He sent mailers with them together in a picture and Obama even cut a radio ad for Himes. In the final weeks his campaign even released joint lawn signs with an Barack Obama logo and a Himes logo in a final push for Obama voters. It was predicted to be a very close election, with polling all tied with the margin of error.

On November 4, 2008, Himes defeated Shays by about 12500 votes. Although Himes only won three towns in the district, he swamped Shays in Bridgeport, winning a staggering 83 percent of the vote there.[16] He was also helped by Barack Obama's massive win in that district.

Himes took office in the 111th United States Congress on January 6, 2009. He is the first Democrat to represent the district since 1969. With his win, New England's delegation in the House will be entirely Democratic for the first time in almost 150 years.

Polls[edit]

Source Date Himes (D) Shays (R)
Reuters/Zogby Poll October 13, 2008 48% 45%
Reuters/Zogby Poll October 9, 2008 44% 44%
University of Connecticut's Center for Survey Research and Analysis September 25, 2008 31% 52%
University of Connecticut's Center for Survey Research and Analysis September 17, 2008 45% 45%

Final Results[edit]

US House election, 2008: Connecticut District 4[17]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Jim Himes 159,694 51.44
Republican Chris Shays 147,356 47.46
Turnout 310,473

References[edit]