Conn. Congressional Freshman Cornered By Tax Cuts
CRAIG LEMOULT: I'm Craig LeMoult in Connecticut, where two years ago, Jim Himes, a former banker at Goldman Sachs, beat moderate Republican Chris Shays, who held the Fourth Congressional District seat for more than 20 years.
It didn't hurt Himes that Barack Obama was also on the ticket that year. But this time around, one of the key words in his campaign ads is independence.
(Soundbite of a political ad)
Unidentified Woman: After just two years, Jim Himes is New England's most independent congressmen, fighting to reduce wasteful spending...
LEMOULT: Himes is being challenged by a moderate Republican state senator who's echoing the theme.
(Soundbite of political ad)
State Senator DAN DEBICELLA (R-Connecticut, Congressional Candidate): I'm Dan Debicella and I approved this message because I'll be an independent voice for Fairfield County families.
LEMOULT: Debicella says Himes has been too loyal to his party. Himes did support key Democratic initiatives, like the stimulus plan and the health care overhaul. But he's also voted against some bills his party supported.
Himes represents an area that's often called Connecticut's Gold Coast, so it may not be surprising he's differing with his party over the so-called Bush tax cuts. He wants to temporarily extend the cuts for those making more than $250,000 a year.
Representative JIM HIMES (Democrat, Connecticut): All too often, the Bush tax cut debate is between do you favor the rich people or the poor people? The way to think about it is that raising anybody's taxes in a recession is a dangerous thing to do.
LEMOULT: Debicella agrees, except he thinks the cuts should be permanent. And he doesn't think Himes can get it done.
St. Sen. DEBICELLA: So, folks who actually want to see the tax cuts extended on a temporary or permanent basis, you know, Jim is not going to be able to deliver on that because the Democrats aren't going to let that happen.
LEMOULT: Supporting the upper-income tax cuts might buy Himes some goodwill with his wealthier constituents. But they weren't the ones who elected him two years ago. Himes actually lost every town in his district except for its three big cities: Bridgeport, Norwalk and Stamford, which is why he's here.
Rep. HIMES: Are you Cassie?
CASSIE: Yes, I just have...
Rep. HIMES: Cassie. Hi, I'm Congressman Jim Himes.
LEMOULT: He's visiting voters in this low-income housing development in Stamford.
Rep. HIMES: We're just knocking on doors, saying hello. And reminding folks there's an election coming up in one month.
Rep. HIMES: And you're registered, right?
CASSIE: No, not yet.
Rep. HIMES: Oh, you're not? We got you down as registered...
LEMOULT: The big cities in the district had a record turnout in 2008. And whether or not Jim Himes gets another shot at Congress depends on if he can get these voters to show up for a midterm election.
For NPR News, I'm Craig LeMoult.
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