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Run, Rob, Run

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published August 29. 2014 4:00AM

I once criticized Rob Simmons, then the Republican congressman for eastern Connecticut, for returning from a visit to the prison at Guantanamo Bay and praising the food there.

In fact, I fired a lot of shots Simmons' way, when he was helping to move along the Bush Administration's conservative agenda in Washington, one I thought to be often at odds with more moderate Connecticut voters.

He took all the political criticism in stride, being the gentleman he is. It goes with the turf, and he knows that.

I later got to trade barbs with him directly, when I occasionally joined a piece of his morning segment on conservative talk radio, as he tossed red meat to, among others, birthers and tea partiers.

Those morning sessions showed me Simmons at his best, genial, charming, prepared, enthusiastic, smart and quick on his feet. It would seem he never skips a ration of caffeine.

Assembled on the desk in front of him would often be the product of all his preparation, books with bookmarks, pamphlets, campaign literature and lots of newspaper clippings, all marked up in red underline. (I am glad to report he is a loyal and thorough reader of The Day.)

Sometimes he brought in props, including one he proudly showed me: A 1934 Pulitzer Prize for journalism won by his grandfather.

So I am glad at the prospect of seeing Simmons at the gates, ready to re-enter public life.

He lost his congressional seat to an estimable replacement, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, by fewer than a hundred votes. Ouch.

He lost a bid for the Republican nomination for a Senate seat from Connecticut to Linda McMahon, after her party's head was turned, no, jerked around, by her wrestling fortune.

But now he's been nominated by Stonington Republicans to fill a Republican vacancy to serve as one of the town's three selectmen. He makes no secret of the fact he intends to eventually run for the full-time job of first selectman, one of the three.

I might guess that the two current Democrats on the Board of Selectmen are loathe to ratify the nomination of a Republican who is sure to be a formidable contender in the next election.

But they really have no choice and need to act quickly and have Simmons join them on the board.

Surely there are no other Republicans in town, ready and willing to serve, with Simmons' long resume of accomplishments and public service. He is the party's choice.

Democrats in town should be happy with the choice, too, since, really, selectmen are not asked to vote on the larger, contentious issues of the day, from tax policy to the nation's defense. Party affiliation is not all that relevant.

Selectmen are expected to run the town efficiently and promote a safe and inviting environment in which to live and work and run a business.

Simmons is certainly overqualified.

As for the prospect of a Simmons candidacy for first selectman, that will be a race to look forward to. Tune in.

This is the opinion of David Collins

d.collins@theday.com

Twitter: @DavidCollinsct

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