In speaking before the Naugatuck Republican Town Committee on Wednesday, former Congressman Chris Shays proclaimed that he was the best GOP candidate to beat the assumed opponent, Democrat Chris Murphy, in the 2012 election.
But, other than mentioning some recent polls, Shays barely spoke about the 5th Congressional District congressman during his 10-minute stump speech.
Instead, he took jabs at another Republican competitor currently in the race for the open U.S. Senate seat: former WWE CEO Linda McMahon.
“You had a choice (in 2010) and you selected someone who spent $50 million in an incredibly wasteful way,” Shays said to the gathering of Republicans during a monthly meeting at Town Hall. “And I ask you, if she is going to spend $50 million so wastefully, how do you think she’s going to spend the government’s money?”
Shays represented 4th Congressional District, a large swath of Fairfield County towns, until 2008, when he lost his seat to Democratic challenger Jim Himes. He was the last Connecticut Republican to be ousted between the Democrats’ legislative victories in 2006 and 2008, and his exit officially solidified House Democrats’ control of all five New England states.
Considered a moderate on many issues, Shays touted his own record before the Naugatuck RTC, . He explained how he stood up to his own party at times, was sound on fiscal issues, and, while he served in Washington, he’s “never been a captive of Washington.”
But apart from talking issues, Shays punctured the discussion with a few swipes at McMahon, while barely mentioning Murphy. He particularly criticized McMahon for her excessive spending in her failed 2010 bid against the-Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
“If she is going to spend $50 million, and ended up losing by over 11 percent, when our gubernatorial candidate almost won, why do you want her back on the ticket when we’ve go to win in other races?” Shays hypothetically asked the Naugatuck RTC, which has not endorsed any candidates yet. “I am speaking frankly to you, and frankly means, ‘been there, done that.’ Why do you think the result will be any different?”
He further went on to say he was “in it to win it” in the race, and that if he doesn’t get his party’s nomination at the GOP convention next summer then he’ll force a primary. Likewise, Shays said he assumes McMahon would also likely force a primary if Shays achieved the nomination.
“If I win the primary, I believe I’ll win the election,” he said.
While she was invited to attend the RTC meeting, McMahon wasn’t present to defend herself, however a former Milford state senator, Tom Scott, came on her campaign’s behalf. Scott, like Shays, spoke mostly on the issues, however he did take a minute to address Shays’ claims about his candidate’s spending.
“She did spend a lot of money last time (and) she’s going to spend whatever is required to win this race,” Scott said. “But you’re not going to see that kind of money spent in this campaign. It’s not necessary. Linda’s doing a lot of fund raising this time.”
Scott said McMahon has been spending more personal time raising money for the campaign, and hosting house parties all throughout the state. Scott acknowledged that, while there could be a primary, McMahon has already gotten endorsements from “50 Republican town chairmen, 20 State Central Committee members” and multiple mayors and first selectmen.
“These are people that want to win, and these are people that are going to coalesce behind the person that we know is going to be the nominee of this party,” Scott said. “Whether it’s settled at the convention or whether settled in the primary, Linda McMahon is going to be our standard bearer in November against Chris Murphy.”