Republican senatorial candidate visits campus

Pierson-Masters_Tea-_Emilie_Foyer
Photo by Emilie Foyer.

A Republican candidate for the 2012 U.S. Senate nomination race visited campus on Thursday, stumping for his candidacy in the Pierson master’s house.

Chris Shays, a former House representative for Connecticut’s fourth district, stopped by Master Harvey Goldblatt’s home for a Master’s Tea Thursday afternoon. In addition to talking about his candidacy and criticizing President Barack Obama’s health care and economic policies, Shays discussed both the theoretical and practical aspects of political life.

“Representation boils down to trying to put yourself in other people’s shoes. It is supposed to give you a sense of people’s life experience,” Shays said. “It is impossible to find any representative who finished their term being the same person they started out as. If they were the same person, they didn’t do their job right.”

On several occasions throughout the talk, Shays openly criticized President Obama, saying that Obama “mandates health care without mandating its costs,” and that he does not have an inherent appreciation of the market system. He also criticized the government’s approach to job creation, saying the primary issue when it comes to jobs is energy dependence.

“The Energy Department has not created energy, just like the Department of Education has not helped create education,” Shays said.

Shays said his motto when he first ran for the Connecticut House was “Chistopher Shays is listening.” Accordingly, throughout the entire talk, he often returned to the notion that representation centers on empathy.

Shays shared two anecdotes to show that many people share basic beliefs despite disparate backgrounds. In his first story, Shays talked about visiting a young, liberal Jewish woman living in a comfortable home and an old, conservative Episcopalian living in a dilapidated house who both agreed that waste in government is an essential problem. In the second anecdote he related when he visited a prostitute dying of AIDS, and immediately afterwards drove to his district and participated in an AIDS fundraiser at a polo match.

During the question-and-answer session, the audience asked Shays for his views on specific problems, with an eye toward his 2012 candidacy. When asked about the issues facing the state, Shays said that Connecticut is currently in worse condition than most states. The government in Hartford is controlled by labor, Shays said, and labor does not have a sense of the connection between freedom and economic activity.

Shays is known as a leader among centrist Republicans and an advocate of socially moderate views. He defended his moderate position by saying that “a party needs to be broad enough to allow a representative to represent his or her entire district.” Because his district is moderate to conservative, Shays said that it is his duty to encompass the views of all the people.

In 2009, Shays was appointed to co-chair the Commission on Wartime Contracting, an independent, bipartisan legislative body established to study wartime contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Accordingly, Shays’s concluding remarks touched upon the war on terror.

“We need to get out of Afghanistan sooner rather than later,” he said. “I don’t believe what we are doing now is sustainable or will be sustainable for the future. I never voted for nation-building in Afganistan.”

Students interviewed after the speech said they had mixed opinions on Shays.

“Chris Shays is a valuable Republican voice,” Tim Jeon ’15 said, adding that he thinks Shays would be a great replacement for Joe Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67, provided he wins the nomination.

Eric Stern ’15, however, said he doesn’t believe Shays has a good chance of winning the nomination.

Shays is running for the Republican nomination against Linda McMahon, who lost the 2010 Senate race to Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73.

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