Boaz “Bo” ItsHaky, a 49-year-old Israeli acupuncturist, is a man of compromise.
He is a self-proclaimed “secular Jew,” a “street vegetarian” (a cross between vegetarian and vegan) and a centrist politician.
But on Tuesday, ItsHaky, who considers himself a fiscally conservative and socially liberal Republican, will run against Rosa DeLauro — a nine-term Democratic incumbent — for Connecticut’s 3rd congressional district seat in the House of Representatives. He will also compete with Green Party candidate Ralph Ferrucci.
ItsHaky is vying for a traditionally Democratic safety seat, which was been held by Republicans just twice since 1950. To say that his is an uphill battle is an understatement. But despite his unfavorable odds, ItsHaky said he is not worried about the outcome of the race.
“I always expect the best,” he said. “The sky’s the limit. Rosa DeLauro’s a very respectable lady, but the chances are 50 percent.”
Arriving at the Athenian Diner on Whalley Avenue for dinner on the Saturday before the election, ItsHaky, clearly unshaven, sported a casual brown hoodie with jogging pants — a look that belies the polished image of Washington, D.C. ItsHaky said he cultivated a desire to run for public office during his time in acupuncture school. It was only after learning that Rep. DeLauro was initially running unopposed, ItsHaky said, that he decided to try his hand in national politics.
“It was always my goal to be on the national level,” he said. “But I wanted to start small — first city, then state, then national. I wasn’t expecting a straight shot.”
HEALING THE GOVERNMENT
Born the middle child to Holocaust survivors and raised in the 700-member kibbutz Ramot Menashe in Isreal, ItsHaky said he “lived the socialism experience long enough to know that it doesn’t work.”
He said he discovered the opportunities in America after traveling around the world — familiarizing himself with oriental medicine along the way — until he moved with his now ex-wife, an American he met in Switzerland, to Bethany, Conn.
He practiced Shiatsu — Japanese massage therapy — at Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford for the next ten years before pursuing his Master of Science in Oriental Medicine from the Tri-State College of Acupuncture in New York City in 2001.
It was then, with his college just blocks away from the aftermath of 9/11, that ItsHaky said he felt the importance of positively giving back to society.
“I realized that I needed to contribute on a larger scale than just my own practice,” he said.
And he has been trying ever since.
He joined both the Republican Town Committee in Bethany and the Republican State Central Committee. But his bid to win a state Senate seat in 2006 failed.
While it may seem odd for voters on Tuesday to weigh ItsHaky, with his limited political experience, against veteran DeLauro, ItsHaky said his political ambitions are just an extension of his practice in medicine.
“I want to work to harmonize the chi of the nation,” he said. “With any individual I treat, I don’t just look to treat their symptoms. I’m also looking to improve the surroundings of the individual, so it fits very well with why I am running.”
ItsHaky said he hopes voters will be receptive to his new brand of politics — a political style that he said differs from both DeLauro and her Republican opponents of years past.
“The starkest difference is that I am in nobody’s pockets,” ItsHaky said. “I don’t take money from what I consider secondary special interest groups.”
His funding comes from what ItsHaky calls the primary special interest group — the group emphasized in the first sentence of the Consitution: “We the people.”
ItsHaky said he believes the practice of “crony capitalism” is the cause of the nation’s economic crisis, with politicians crafting legislation that is disproportionately influenced by special interest groups. He cited DeLauro’s former position as Sen. Chris Dodd’s chief of staff as evidence that she is also involved in displaying favoritism to special interest groups.
Dodd was accused earlier this year of accepting special VIP rates from Countrywide Mortgage.
“The apple doesn’t fall far away from the tree,” ItsHaky said of DeLauro’s connection to Dodd.
In response, DeLauro’s communications director Adriana Surfas said DeLauro’s constituents have always been her top priority.
“[DeLauro] has always stood up and fought for her constituents,” she said. “And the residents of the Third District know she has always been a fighter for them and prioritized their interests.”
ItsHaky blames members of his own party for the government’s shortcomings. Republicans, he said, have alienated Connecticut voters by shifting too far to the right.
“It’s not that Rosa is so good,” he casually explained, noting that his party had only given him a fraction of the money promised to his campaign. “It’s just that the Republican organization is deficient.”
H. Richter Elser ’81, chairman of the New Haven Republican Town Committee and Republican challenger to Mayor John DeStefano Jr. in last year’s mayoral race, dismissed ItsHaky’s claim. He said the local party makes monetary promises based on the organization of the candidate’s campaign and usually after a candidate has raised a benchmark amount of funds independently.
Elser said he received all the funding he was promised for his mayoral campaign in 2007. He also said he thought it was possible for a Republican candidate to win in the Third District, even though a central part of the district, which includes New Haven, is especially Democratic.
Elser said ItsHaky has spent much of his time campaigning in the more Republican areas of the district, such as Middletown and Shelton.
But ItsHaky’s campaign pocketbook has been dwarfed by that of the well-funded DeLauro. According to an Oct. 15 report on OpenSecrets.org, DeLauro fundraised $1,030,435. ItsHaky, according to CampaignMoney.com, has zero contributions. An ItsHaky victory, in terms of available finances, would be an epic upset.
No matter, ItsHaky said. He said he will keep running until he wins the seat on Capitol Hill.
“Plan B is running again in 2010,” he remarked. “Plan C is running is 2012, plan D is running in 2014 and plan E is running in 2016.”