Published August 04. 2012 4:00AM
In selecting a U.S. Senate candidate in the Aug. 14 primary Republicans face stark options.
In former Congressman Chris Shays the party has the type of moderate Republican who can win an election in Connecticut. In 2006, as Democrats swept to control of Congress during the mid-term elections of President George W. Bush's disastrous second term, Mr. Shays was the only Republican in New England to retain his congressional seat. It took the headwind created by the Connecticut landslide of President Barack Obama in 2008 to wrest Mr. Shays from his 4th District position.
While fiscally conservative, Mr. Shays has demonstrated throughout his long political career the willingness and ability to compromise to get things done. He is not rigidly ideological. With his 11 terms in the House he knows the ways of Washington and would be prepared to advocate for Connecticut in the Senate on day one.
In businesswoman Linda McMahon, who won the party's nomination at the state convention, Republicans have a candidate who could bankroll her own campaign and vastly outspend her Democratic opponent in the general election. Yet as a loser in her only attempt at political office, the 2010 Senate race, she has not shown an ability to win in Connecticut. Having never served at any level of elected office, her learning curve in the Senate would be a steep one.
The options then are Mr. Shays' experience, electability and a demonstrated ability to legislate - or Ms. McMahon's money. In other words, the choice is easy. The Day endorses Christopher Shays and urges Republicans to back him on primary day.
Joe Lieberman, who is retiring from office, currently holds the Senate seat.
In interviews with The Day, Mr. Shays demonstrated an in-depth knowledge of the challenges facing the country. While we disagree with his support for repeal of the Affordable Care Act and extension of the Bush tax cuts for all incomes, including couples making $250,000 or more a year, we recognize those opinions are in line with a majority of Republicans.
When looking long term Mr. Shays presents a comprehensive approach to tax policy, proposing a plan that replaces the current six tax brackets with three - 10 percent, 15 percent and 25 percent - and eliminates most credits, deductions and loopholes. It would provide greater certainty about what people and businesses can expect to pay and, if done right, prevent the rich from escaping their fair share of taxation.
Contrast that approach with the simplistic and fraudulent promise by Ms. McMahon in her campaign commercial to "save the average Connecticut family $500 a month." Most of the so-called "savings" are based on maintaining the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, which both parties back. In actuality, Ms. McMahon's plan would mean an $82 per month reduction for the average-income family. Use the truer measure of middle-class standing, median income, and there are no savings, a Hartford Courant analysis found. This is a tax cut plan for the rich.
On spending, Mr. Shays demonstrated his ability to root out waste and fraud when, in 2009, he co-chaired the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting and indentified $60 billion of it during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Mr. Shays says he stands ready to make the tough choices to reduce federal spending, including reform of entitlement programs.
We don't know how Ms. McMahon would approach budget cutting. She refused to meet with the editorial boards of newspapers, including this one, at which she would have had the opportunity to talk in-depth about her positions. Perhaps it was talking in depth that she feared.
As for financing the campaign, a victory by Mr. Shays would make Connecticut's race a competitive one and bring national and local money flowing into the Shays campaign. If they want the best chance to win in November, Republicans should choose Chris Shays.
The Day will make its endorsements for the general election in the fall.