Hearst exclusive: Former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays entering 2012 Senate race
Former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., is looking to disprove the adage: you can't go home again.
On sabbatical from Connecticut's political scene since his 2008 election loss, soon after which he moved to Maryland to start a new chapter of his career and sold his Bridgeport home, Shays told Hearst Connecticut Newspapers on Monday that he's entering the 2012 race for U.S. Senate in the Nutmeg State.
A check of the election rolls in Bridgeport shows that Shays was reinstated late Friday as a voter in that city, where he and his wife Betsi bought a condominium last year when he was entertaining a run for governor.
"I did. Betsi and I excited to be back in Connecticut," Shays, 65, said. "These are all the steps that I am taking so that I can have the opportunity to run for Senate. I hope to be on the ballot next November."
Shays is expected to face former wrestling executive Linda McMahon, who spent $50 million on an unsuccessful Senate bid in 2010, in next year's Republican primary.
A fixture in the House of Representatives from 1987 to 2008, Shays is currently co-chairman of a special commission created by Congress to look into military contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The commission is scheduled to release its final report at the end of August and dissolve in September, leaving Shays with the ability to become a full-time candidate for the seat of retiring incumbent Joe Lieberman.
"I look forward to my work concluding on the Commission on Wartime Contracting," Shays said.
Election officials in Bridgeport confirmed that Shays and his wife appeared at the registrars of voters' office at 4 p.m. Friday to be reinstated to the city's voter rolls.
"They're fully registered voters," said Cisco Borres, the city's deputy Republican registrar. "All their rights as voters have been restored. They're good to go."
Shays lost his seat of 21 years in 2008 to Greenwich Democrat Jim Himes, who is currently serving his second term. During Shays' final term he was the lone New England Republican in the House.
Even though the couple moved to and registered to vote in St.
Michaels, Md. after that race, Borres said they were listed as inactive voters in Bridgeport.
"He was never fully removed," Borres said.
Shays, who was born and raised in Connecticut but has been characterized by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee as a carpetbagger, noted that he once again holds a Connecticut driver's license.
"We're in the process of moving our legal address back into Connecticut," said Shays, who plans to keep his home in Maryland.
Shays declined to respond further to criticism from the DSCC.
A July poll by Frank Luntz showed Shays in a statistical dead-heat with U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., in a hypothetical matchup for Senate. The survey of 500 registered Connecticut voters had Murphy, who entered the race in January after Lieberman announced his retirement, leading Shays 42 to 40 percent.
The same poll had Murphy leading McMahon, the former chief executive of WWE who lost to longtime Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in 2010, 52 to 36 percent.
McMahon is on the cusp of jumping into the race, which is also drawing interest from former Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele and David Walker, a former U.S. comptroller general who coincidentally bought Shays'
former home in Bridgeport.
The same poll showed Shays leading former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, a Democrat, 48 to 37 percent.
In addition to Murphy and Bysiewicz, the Democratic field includes state Rep. William Tong, of Stamford.
Staff writer Neil Vigdor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 203-625-4436.