BOLTON, Conn. — In his bid for a political comeback, Republican Senate candidate Christopher Shays of Connecticut is hoping voters will support a dying breed in Washington, D.C. — a fiscally conservative, socially moderate, so-called “New England Republican.”
Despite the recently announced retirement of moderate Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine and her expressed frustrations over partisan gridlock, Shays is not deterred. He’s been making the pitch to Republican activists that Washington still needs a centrist to work with both parties to balance the federal budget, improve the economy, and not spend valuable time on hot-button social issues.
“My sense is that there are a number of members on both sides of the aisle that just need to see a few other people show some courage,” Shays told The Associated Press in an interview last week, following an appearance before the Bolton Republican Town Committee “Some of them want to be there for the next 12, 18 years. I’m not looking to do that. I’m looking for one truly effective six-year term.”
The term New England Republican has typically meant a Republican who is socially tolerant and opposed to government intervention in issues such as abortion, yet is fiscally conservative. Some critics over the years, however, have questioned their level of fiscal restraint and called them Republicans in Name Only, or RINOs.
When Snowe announced in February that she would not seek a fourth term, she defended being a centrist, saying there’s “a vital need for the political center in order for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us.”
With her exit, the Republican ranks in the six-state region, especially those considered moderates, are dwindling.
Of New England’s 12 senators, six are Democrats, two are independents who caucus with the Democrats, and four are Republicans. Both Snowe and Sen. Susan Collins, also of Maine, are considered moderate.
When Shays lost to Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Himes in 2008, he was the last Republican member of the House from New England. Today, only two of the 22 New England House members are Republicans. Both are from New Hampshire.
Since his loss,
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