While to many he’s a long shot to win the Republican primary for U.S. Senate on Aug. 14, former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays says his supporters have more energy than his rival, former WWE CEO Linda McMahon, and he expects that energy to translate into more votes on Election Day.
Shays stopped by Darien’s Sugar Bowl for the weekly community coffee held by The Darien Times on Thursday, Aug. 2, where he spoke with around 20 residents about his policies, the race to win the Senate seat, and his time growing up in town. But with the election looming and McMahon far ahead in recent polls, and her refusal to participate in more debates, Shays’ opportunities to catch up appear grim.
“I’ve never run against a candidate like this,” Shays said. “[McMahon] doesn’t want debates. She doesn’t even want to meet editorial boards. And frankly when she was here, she doesn’t even want to answer your questions.”
McMahon was asked five times when she came to the Sugar Bowl whether she would vote for the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission process, known as BRAC. McMahon said she would fight to keep the base open, but did not answer whether she would vote to oppose another commission or not.
Shays said he has less respect for McMahon than any other candidate he’s opposed in his 20-plus years of public service.
“I don’t respect it at all,” Shays said of McMahon’s campaigning. “That’s why it’s going to make it impossible for her to win the general election.”
Shays also criticized his GOP opponent for getting signatures to appear on the Independent party line after receiving her party’s endorsement at its May convention.
“What I believe with all my heart and soul is, I am a candidate who has always run as a Republican, not as an Independent,” Shays said. “Why would someone who got a Republican endorsement then want to set up a party competing with the Republican party?”
Shays said he’d vote for McMahon if she wins the primary, but would not campaign for her because of her choice to put her name on two lines. “That to me is trying to be too cute times 10,” Shays said.
Democratic candidate, current U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, leads McMahon in most recent Public Policy polls, although McMahon seems to have more Independent voters on her side. However, the poll indicated that 19% of Republicans would vote for Murphy if McMahon is on the GOP ticket, which could counter her margin with the Independents.
“Shays is so far behind his general election numbers are barely worth noting,” Tom Jensen wrote on the Public Policy Polling website.
Shays said he might be a long shot, but if voters choose him, they’re choosing experience.
“If they vote for [McMahon], they’re going to be saying they want a new face,” Shays said. “I don’t think she’s that new. We’ve seen a lot of it.
“If they vote for me, they’re going to say they vote for experience.”
Shays added that if he won, having only spent $1.1 million — all of which was raised — compared to McMahon’s $8.4 million — most of which was self-funded by McMahon — would send a strong message to the country that money can’t buy an election.
“I believe my voters are more energized that her voters,” he said. “I believe her voters are broader… but thin as paper. I believe some people have supported her because they think she wins and I lose, so that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
“I know people who have endorsed her who are voting for me,” Shays continued. “That may sound crazy to you.”
For Shays, the democratic process is what drives him, especially during election season.
“I love the democratic process,” Shays said. “I love the whole concept that I can run for public office, make my case, and then the people decide.”
For more check out next week’s print edition of The Darien Times, on newsstands Thursday, Aug. 8.