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Mike France emerges as early challenger to Joe Courtney in 2nd District

Republican state Rep. Mike France has emerged as an early challenger to eight-term Democratic Congressman Joe Courtney in the 2022 midterm elections.

France, 58, of Gales Ferry filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on Feb. 6 to run as a Republican in the sprawling 2nd Congressional District, which covers the eastern half of Connecticut.

France did not respond to multiple messages seeking comment Tuesday. A Navy veteran, he is currently serving his fourth term representing the 42nd House District, which includes most of Ledyard, all of Preston, and a portion of the Uncasville and Oakdale sections of Montville.

Rob Simmons, the Republican who held the seat from 2001 to 2007, ultimately losing reelection to Courtney by a narrow margin, said France’s decision to get in the race early, as Simmons did when he first ran for Congress, shows the seriousness of his candidacy.

“Running for Congress is not easy, especially against a well-established incumbent,” Simmons said. “I give him and his family credit for taking this issue seriously and for doing the work that needs to be done to have a competitive race.”

Simmons said he raised $750,000 when he first ran for Congress and used much of that money on TV advertisements in the three weeks leading up to the 2000 election. He said France will need to raise a lot of money to prevail against Courtney, and announcing his candidacy early gives him ample time to do that.

"What I've seen in recent years is no serious commitment to the race," Simmons said, adding that Courtney's previous challengers did not raise the money, nor spend the time or energy necessary, to beat him. "None of them had the patience, discipline and focus of somebody like Mike France."

"I'm so excited to have a candidate that I feel good about supporting," Simmons said.

Asked to comment, Nick Boreen, a spokesman for Courtney's campaign, said his boss is focused on the work of the new Congress.

"That includes swiftly passing the American Rescue Plan to get vaccinations to eastern Connecticut, economic assistance to its families, schools, and small businesses, among others, and convening the bipartisan Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee as its Chairman, whose first meeting is scheduled for Friday," he said.

Courtney, 67, of Vernon, easily secured reelection to an eighth term in Congress during the November 2020 election, beating Republican Justin Anderson, a lieutenant colonel in the Connecticut National Guard and a retired correctional officer.

Anderson, a political newcomer, emerged as the Republican challenger after Tom Gilmer, the GOP-endorsed candidate, was arrested on domestic violence charges on the eve of the primary election. Anderson indicated in an interview after his defeat that he intended to run again in two years.

France is a well-known legislator who previously served on the Ledyard Town Council and chaired the Finance Committee. He currently serves as the ranking member of the General Assembly's Appropriations Committee and is also a member of the General Administration and Elections Committee. He is chair of the General Assembly's Conservative Caucus, a 15-member group that describes itself as "dedicated to the principles of limited government, economic freedom, and individual liberty."

France was among a group of people who sued Gov. Ned Lamont last fall over his emergency powers to address the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that the pandemic didn’t meet the threshold to declare the emergency in either March or last September when Lamont extended his powers.

j.bergman@theday.com

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